Blocking a key enzyme can stop the spread of breast cancer, according to new research.
Scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research found that the enzyme LOXL2 is needed for tumour cells to escape from the breast and invade surrounding tissue.
The team showed that blocking the function of LOXL2 decreased the spread of the cancer from the breast to the lungs, liver and bone.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in England.
In 2008 there were 39,681 new cases diagnosed, an increase of 1,633 cases compared to the previous year.
The spread of cancer is known as metastasis. Once metastases are detected in a patient with breast cancer, median survival is less than two years.
Using tissue samples from breast cancer patients, the researchers showed for the first time that high levels of LOXL2 are associated with cancer spread and poor prognosis. In theory, LOXL2 could be used to treat even advanced breast cancer.
Arlene Wilkie, Director of Research and Policy at Breast Cancer Campaign said: “These results are very exciting, as although currently we can treat breast cancer that has spread, we cannot cure it.”
LOXL2 has been linked to the spread of several cancers including colon, esophageal and squamous cell cancers. Further research will now look into a drug that could block this enzyme.