Breast cancer is not an easy disease to beat. According to a new study published in the journal Nature Medicine, patients diagnosed with it risk having the cancer cells spread throughout the body. Apparently, the disease itself messes up the immune system, preventing it from keeping the tumor cells away from the patient's bloodstream.
Researchers looked at tissue samples from breast cancer patients and studies on mice and found that those afflicted with the disease have had their IRF7 gene shut off. This gene is responsible for the immune protein interferon, which fights against tumor cells as well as various viruses and bacteria. Without it, cancer cells are free to spread from the breast and into the bone marrow.
In an attempt to fix the problem, researchers came up with two possible solutions. One way was to put the IRF7 gene back into the cancer cells. After allowing the immune pathway to be stimulated, the cancer cells did not appear to spread. Another way was to use interferon on animals, which also stopped the cancer cells from making their way into the bloodstream.
In 2010, 1.5 million people were diagnosed with cancer. With this new discovery, there may be more hope that this will one day become an entirely survivable disease.
(Photo by Yongjiet via Flickr Creative Commons)