Study Identifies One of the Mechanisms Behind Breast Cancer Metastasis
Several years ago, scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and other laboratories made a paradoxical discovery regarding the Akt molecular pathway, a popular target for cancer drug therapies. They discovered that while one Akt protein – Akt1 – was actively preventing cancer cells from spreading, another closely related family member – Akt2 – was actually promoting breast cancer cell migration. And, indeed, subsequent studies in mouse models of breast cancer revealed that blocking the Akt pathway resulted in enhanced metastasis to the lungs.
This left scientists and clinicians faced with a troubling situation: Would the drugs actively being developed to inhibit Akt activity and halt breast cancer survival mechanisms be simultaneously enhancing cancer cells' abilities to metastasize to other organs?
Now, BIDMC scientists Alex Toker, PhD, and Rebecca Chin, PhD, have identified the first direct Akt1 target, a protein called palladin, providing an explanation for how Akt1 can function as a suppressor of breast cancer invasion and metastasis. This new finding, reported in the journal Molecular Cell, reveals another key piece of information as scientists continue their development of targeted cancer therapies, and underscores the importance of dissecting the precise mechanisms by which tumor cells invade and metastasize to distant organs.