According to statistics, 2.3 million women will be diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time in 2020, with one woman diagnosed every fourteen seconds worldwide.
It is the most common type of cancer in Singapore, with one in every thirteen women developing it at some point in their lives. Despite the fact that advanced and metastatic breast cancer are thought to be incurable and have a very poor prognosis, early-stage and non-metastatic breast cancer can now be treated.
Since early detection of breast cancer metastasis is critical for treatment, a group of researchers has discovered a non-invasive biomarker that may aid in an earlier diagnosis. According to research led by Assistant Professor Minh Le from the Institute for Digital Medicine (WisDM) and Department of Pharmacology at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine of the National University of Singapore (NUS Medicine) and Associate Professor Andrew Grimson from the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Cornel University, extracellular vesicles (EVs), which are particles secreted by tumour cells, have a high level of the proteins integrins v and 1.
The Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore’s Institute for Digital Medicine (WisDM) and Department of Pharmacology, Assistant Professor Minh Le stated, “Metastasis is the chief concern for breast cancer patients. The study highlights the potential of integrins αv and β1 as a promising prognostic and therapeutic target for patients with metastatic breast cancer. Our research has opened several doors, and we hope that future work will help develop new ways to assess, monitor and suppress this hallmark of cancer.”
The team also collaborated with Senior Consultant Associate Professor Victor Lee of the National University Hospital’s Department of Pathology, who discovered that samples from patients with stage III or stage IV breast cancer had high integrin levels. He added, “Through the study, we discovered the potential of integrin αv as a new non-invasive biomarker for the early diagnosis of breast cancer metastasis.”
Assoc Prof Grimson further said, “The study has led to fundamental insights in the underlying mechanisms of breast cancer metastasis. In addition to its clinical relevance, the research contributes to recent advances in the EV field, in that there are functionally distinct subsets of EVs, which can now be more readily identified and studied to understand their functions and potential as therapeutic targets in the tumour environment.”