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Scientists hopeful for breast cancer breakthrough

Scientists hopeful for breast cancer breakthrough

Scientists may have found a way to stop breast cancer spreading into women's bones.

After extensive research, experts at The University of Sheffield are confident that they've discovered means to slash the death rate linked to the disease, which currently sees over 50,000 UK people diagnosed annually.

Around 85 per cent of secondary breast cancer tumours are in the bones, but now scientists believe there is a drug that will stop the infection penetrating the bone. Over time, they hope breast cancer can be isolated in those who are at high risk of it spreading.

Luckily these drugs are already in use - bisphosphonates currently treat osteoporosis, a condition in which bones are weak and fragile.

While more research needs to be carried out and clinical trials are to be scheduled, the team in Sheffield feel this drug could be a real breakthrough.

"This is really exciting. ER-negative patients are the ones with the poorest prognosis - they are the ones who really need identifying and treating," Dr Alison Gartland, bone expert at The University of Sheffield, explained.

"This is important progress in the fight against breast cancer metastasis [spreading], increasing the chances of survival for thousands of patients."

Those who have the ER-negative form of the disease, which makes up an average of 30 per cent of all patients, could have their prognosis' improved greatly. The ER-negative tumours let out LysYl Oxidase (LOX), an enzyme which attacks the bone and creates hols for the cancerous cells to get through.

"It is like the LOX enzyme is fertilising the soil of the bone, making it an attractive site for the cancer to grow," Dr Gartland explained.

"We have shown that bisphosphonates inhibit this process by stopping LOX interacting with the bone cells."

Experiments on human cells in a lab were only strengthened by tests on mice, with Dr Gartland happy they got 100 per cent results.

It's hoped that over the next few years a drug will be developed for people to get on the NHS, and that bisphosphonates will be used early on to ensure cancer doesn't spread to the bones.

Findings were published in the journal Nature last night.

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