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New research into spread of cancer cells

25. jan. 2013 13.15 English

Ninety per cent of deaths among cancer patients are the result of cancer cells spreading to other parts of the body. Now, however, a research team from the Biotech Research and Innovation Centre (BRIC) at the University of Copenhagen has demonstrated in a breast cancer model that inhibiting the spread of a certain enzyme also inhibits the spread of cancer cells.

“An enzyme called LOX is able to alter the microscopic structure of organs and, in simple terms, this allows cancer cells that move around in the body to grow better and metastasise to another tissue,” explained research coordinator Katrine Sonne-Hansen. “We’ve known for a while that some cancer patients in whom the disease spreads have an increased amount of the enzyme LOX, but we haven’t understood the enzyme’s mechanism of action.”

Understanding cancer’s strategy

With the new results, the research team, headed by Associate Professor Janine Erler, has illustrated what cancer cells need if they are to grow in tissues other than those where they originate. In order to produce effective medicine, it is essential to understand the biological strategies that cancer cells exploit.

“We need to look not only at the cancer cells themselves but also at their surrounding environment. The next step is to delve deeper into the underlying biological mechanism. Only by understanding the biological processes can we create effective treatment,” said Sonne-Hansen.

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