Deanna Csomo McCool | June 17, 2020
A new study from the University of Notre Dame shows drugs used to treat high cholesterol could interfere with the way breast cancer cells adapt to the microenvironment in the brain, preventing the cancer from taking hold. Patients with breast cancer who experience this type of metastasis typically survive for only months after diagnosis.
Statins, a group of drugs commonly prescribed for those with high cholesterol, were shown to interfere with a pathway that allows a cancer cell to recycle cell surface proteins and therefore make it easier for cancer cells to live within the brain.
“It normally takes a decade to develop new medications. Instead of waiting, we can repurpose medications people are already taking,” said Siyuan Zhang, the Dee Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, and principal investigator of the study published in Nature Communications. “Statins are relatively safe drugs, and they can even be given, if doctors choose, to try to prevent metastasis.”
The protein Rab11b brings “recycled” proteins back to the surface like a fast-moving Ferris wheel, Zhang said. Statins suppress breast cancer survival in the brain by inhibiting the ability of Rab11b to recycle surface proteins. As a result of less recycling, the surface of metastatic tumor cells is less sticky. This limits the survival of cancer cells, and ultimately slows the rate of tumor colonization in the brain microenvironment.
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