Ann Conkle
Apr 24, 2012

RANK protein promotes breast cancer initiation and metastasis

Researchers from the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute have shown that overactivation of the RANK protein signaling pathway promotes the initiation, progression and metastasis of tumors in human breast cells by dedifferentiation of breast cells to stem cells. Previous research had shown that the RANK pathway contributed to cancer in mouse models, but the new project explored the pathway in healthy human breast cells, breast tumor cells, and clinical samples from breast tumors. Cancer cells with high levels of RANK were associated with basal type tumors, high-grade tumors, and more aggressive tumors  that  metastasized. The next step is to confirm these results in a larger sample and explore therapeutic options. Currently, there is a pharmacological inhibitor of RANK signalling pathway used in the treatment of osteoporosis and bone metastases, so treatment development could move quickly.