Medical Researchers Devised a Groundbreaking Method to Convert Breast Cancer Cells Back to Normal Cells

Cancer patients are introduced to various treatments that terminate the growth and multiplication of harmful cells. For breast cancer, patients are often advised to undergo chemotherapy, hormone therapy, radiation, or surgery. Medical researchers are in a continuous investigation to find new methods that can end breast cancer progression. Recently, a game-changing drug was formulated to treat triple-negative breast cancer. Scientists claim that MitoQ can stop metastases and local relapses. It reduces concern about breast cancer recurrence years after treatment. Aside from that, another groundbreaking method has been discovered by a different research team. Based on their findings, the particular treatment can revert breast cancer cells to normal ones.

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The process of cancer cell growth starts when damaged or abnormal cells begin to multiply. If the process develops into a cancerous tumor, the cells will spread into nearby organs and place new tumors across the body. As cancer cells differ from normal cells, they multiply without signal and do not recognize the indication to stop dividing. Moreover, the damaged cells can conceal themselves from the immune system. If not given early treatments, the abnormal cells will continue to uncontrollably invade the whole body.

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For this reason, the conversion of breast cancer cells to normal cells is a breakthrough in medical research. The study was led by a team from the University of Basel and the University Hospital Basel. One of the lead authors of the research was Professor Mohamed Bentires-Alj. Their findings were based on a cancer therapy called differentiation. It is an effective treatment for blood-borne types of cancer. During the research, the team tried differentiation on solid tumors, mainly on triple-negative breast cancer.

Estrogen has a role of a signaling molecule in cells that attaches to their cognate receptors. Normal cells producing estrogen receptors do not multiply, whereas with damaged cells, the growth spreads throughout the body. Estrogen receptor-positive breast cancers make up about 75% of breast cancer cases. As it’s vulnerable to estrogen, the development of cancer cells is stopped by anti-estrogenic therapies. “Our initial idea was to induce estrogen receptor expression to convert triple-negative breast cancer into estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer because of more effective treatment options available for this subtype,” Dr. Milica Vulin shared.

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Their team collaborated with Novartis to examine over 9500 compounds for a successful goal. The compound with the groundbreaking results was an inhibitor of a cell-cycle protein called polo-like kinase 1. PLK1 effectively boosted the production of estrogen receptors. More importantly, the protein did not only convert triple-negative breast cancer cells to controllable types of cells but close to normal cells. “Understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms that define cancer and how these mechanisms differ from normal cells is crucial for developing new innovative therapies,” says Bentires-Alj. “The compounds used in this study are already in clinical trials to treat other cancer types, including blood-borne, lung, and pancreatic cancer,” he added.

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Cancer cells may hide from the immune system, but immunotherapies are now being utilized. The process aids the immune system in hunting down cancerous cells. Medical researchers are determining if differentiation can be incorporated into immunotherapies. “We are pursuing such strategies, and only time and resources are in our way to make further progress,” the team shared. The research with groundbreaking information has been published in the online journal Oncogene.

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