A Cancer Paradigm Shift

Triple negative breast cancer biomarkers identified

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

(RxWiki News) Cancer is an ever-changing biological process, and how it behaves is as unique as the body it invades. Researchers have found with one particularly nasty form of breast cancer, patients actually feed their own cancer cells.

And that's got to stop!

Investigators have shown that the biomarker (something that indicates the presence of disease) MCTA links ups with the way the tumor is nourished and uses the body of the patient to get fed.

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A team of researchers from Thomas Jefferson University was led by Agnieszka K. Witkiewicz, M.D., associate professor of pathology, anatomy and cell biology and Michael P. Lisanti, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine.

The team looked at and analyzed data from more than 180 women with triple negative breast cancer. This type of cancer has no receptors for estrogen, progesterone or HER2, is more difficult to treat and the most aggressive form of breast cancer.

Researchers found MCT4 (monocarboxylate transporter 4) is seen at high levels in these cancers, along with a loss of caveolin-1 (Cav-1) - another known marker of early cancer return and metastasis. 

Women who had high levels of MCTA and a loss of Cav-1 typically didn't have positive outcomes because they were at higher risk for treatment failure, recurrence and metastasis.

What's important about this is that today there are no markers for triple negative breast cancer, so patients are all treated with the same regimens.

Knowing who has these high-risk markers would allow clinicians to find alternative treatment methods.

"The idea is to combine these two biomarkers, and stratify this patient population to provide better personalized cancer care," said Dr. Witkiewicz.

MCT4 is a new target that could be treated with drugs. Researchers suggest that MCT4 inhibitors could be developed to treat not only aggressive breast cancers, but potentially other malignancies.

Targeting and blocking this gene with a drug or even antioxidants might help patients at high-risk of metastasis respond better to conventional therapies.

These findings represent a paradigm shift, according to Dr. Lisanti, moving from what he calls the "old cancer theory" to the "new cancer theory," challenging the 85-year-old "Reverse Warburg Effect."

Dr. Lisanti says his findings suggest that the cancer is fed in connective tissue cells, not in the cancer cells themselves, as the Warburg theory puts forth.

This means that new anti-cancer therapies could be developed to cut off cancer food supplies.

These findings were published online March 15 in Cell Cycle.

Financial disclosures were not freely available.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 15, 2012
Last Updated:
March 15, 2012