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Mayo ID's potential breast cancer breakthrough

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Mayo Clinic researchers have identified a potential treatment for breast cancer metastasis that, if corroborated, could prove beneficial in many other cancer treatments.

That groundbreaking announcement was made in a paper published Dec. 9 in Nature Communications, a medical journal. However, the study's senior author Dr. Zhenkun Lou cautioned that more research is necessary.

The new Mayo study identifies a possible way to prevent the spread of cancer, called metastasis, typically through the lymph system or bloodstream. Perhaps more significantly, the class of drugs tested by Dr. Lou and his team are already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The paper suggests that a key drug target, called CDK 4/6, regulates a cancer metastasis protein, dubbed SNAIL. Dr. Lou's research shows that drugs that inhibit CDK 4/6 could prevent the spread of triple-negative breast cancer.

"Metastasis is a hallmark of cancer and a leading cause of cancer death," Dr. Lou said. "Despite great progress in cancer therapy, the prevention of cancer metastasis is still an unfulfilled challenge."

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According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer during their lifetimes, making it the most common form of cancer among women. In 2016, nearly 250,000 new cases were diagnosed in the U.S.

More than 41,000 U.S. deaths were attributed to breast cancer in 2013, according to the latest numbers available from the CDC.

Mayo's recent study focused on triple-negative breast cancer, which is especially difficult to treat because "it does not exhibit receptors for estrogen, progesterone or the HER-2/neu gene, which are targets for many current breast cancer treatments," according to a Mayo's release.

Dr. Lou said that "this class of drugs was able to significantly inhibit the spread of triple-negative breast cancer to distant organs." However, it didn't impact the rate of growth of triple-negative breast cancer.

Mayo's announcement says that Dr. Lou's finding could be "an important discovery that could expand the use of CDK 4/6 inhibitors to prevent the metastasis of many other cancers that exhibit a high level of the SNAIL protein."

"These findings may provide a new treatment for the prevention of cancer metastasis," said Dr. Matthew Goetz, the study's co-author and co-leader of the Women's Cancer Program at Mayo Clinic. "Mayo Clinic is now developing new studies that will focus on the role of CDK 4/6 inhibitors and their potential to inhibit cancer metastasis in women with triple-negative breast cancer who are at highest risk for cancer metastasis."

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