At Last - Possible Therapy for Brain Metastasis

Brain metastasis thwarted with pigment epithelium derived factor

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Progress is being made on most oncology fronts. Unfortunately, brain metastasis remains something medicine hasn't touched in an effective way. Researchers may have found a new opening in resolving the greatest challenge women with advanced breast cancer face.

Recent laboratory research involving metastatic breast cancer cell lines discovered that a protein called pigment epithelium-derived factor (PEDF) worked to suppress tumor activity and protect brain tissue from the ravages of invading cancer.

"Regular medical follow-up is vitally important for all cancer patients."

When breast cancer starts to move, it travels most often to the lymph nodes, bone, lungs, liver and brain. This spread from the original site creates serious treatment problems, and brain metastasis is among the most challenging. 

Patricia S. Steeg, Ph.D., head of the Women’s Cancers Section at the National Cancer Institute’s Center for Cancer Research summarized the situation in a news release announcing the study findings.

"“We are making progress from the neck down in cancer treatment, but brain metastases are increasing and are often a primary reason patients with breast cancer do not survive.”

Steeg explained that very few drugs used to treat breast cancer can pass through the blood-brain barrier to enter and treat disease inside the brain.

In an effort to learn more about the mechanisms of brain cancer metastasis, Steeg and colleagues looked at and analyzed the role of PEDF, a protein currently being studied as a possible treatment for macular degeneration.

This protein is a tumor suppressor that also seems to protect neurons, which are the basic building blocks of the nervous system.

Researchers saw that neurons near tumors with PEDF were surviving. In fact, there was a 3.5 fold decline in the numbers of dying neurons close to tumors that had the PEDF protein.

This is very early research and has a long way to go before it becomes available to patients. Nonetheless, this research represents an impressive step forward in managing brain metastasis, according to Steeg.

The study was supported with funding from the National Cancer Institute, National Eye Institute and the U.S. Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program.

Findings were reported in the January, 2011 issue of Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

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Review Date: 
January 4, 2012
Last Updated:
October 21, 2012