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How Early Stage Breast Cancer Spreads to Other Parts of the Body

Researchers believe they may have a new clue on how early-stage breast cancer may spread to other parts of the body. This information is greatly beneficial to understand in the mission to find a cure for this disease. When breast cancer cells spread to other organs in the body, it is referred to as metastatic breast cancer and is oftentimes fatal.

The study found that before a breast cancer tumor is even found, cells that are not yet malignant can spread to other organs where they lie dormant.

The study was performed using samples of an early stage of breast cancer known as ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS, as well as cancer lesions from mice. A gene called NR2F1 normally prevents pre-malignant cells from spreading to other parts of the body. However, Maria Soledad Sosa, a professor at Mount Sinai’s Tisch Cancer Institute in New York City and a research team discovered that a cancer gene called HER2 can suppress the NR2F1 gene. This can ultimately allow pre-cancerous cells to move to other organs of the body.

“Evidence is suggesting that even before a primary tumor is detectable, you can have cells that disseminate also to secondary organs and they can eventually also form metastasis,” Sosa said. “Even though they do the surgery of DCIS or sometimes it’s treated with radiotherapy, the mortality rate doesn’t change. This is telling you that it doesn’t matter what is there in your primary site,” Sosa said. The problem is that the abnormal cells are spreading from the carcinoma, she said.

This incredible information could eventually have an impact on how women diagnosed with DCIS and other forms of breast cancer are treated.

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