MONTRÉAL, Oct. 23, 2014 /CNW Telbec/ - A team of researchers at the IRCM, led by Jean-François Côté, discovered a potential new therapeutic target to prevent the invasion of cancer cells, which could have a significant impact on breast cancer treatment. Their breakthrough was published online this week by the scientific journal Molecular and Cellular Biology.
The researchers are interested in understanding the molecular details involved in metastasis, which is the spread of cancer from one organ to another. This harmful process accounts for nearly 90 per cent of cancer patient deaths.
"We investigated a molecule called Axl, which is detected at the surface of cancer cells and is known to be involved in various types of invasive cancer," says Jean-François Côté, PhD, Director of the Cytoskeletal Organization and Cell Migration research unit at the IRCM. "In fact, a high amount of Axl on breast tumours is closely associated with metastasis and a poor prognosis for patients. The molecule's mechanisms remain poorly understood, but we are now excited to have found how it works inside the cell."
"With this study, we showed that Axl activates a novel chain of events that leads to cell invasion," adds Afnan Abu-Thuraia, first author of the article and doctorate student in Dr. Côté's laboratory. "More precisely, we demonstrated that Axl modifies a protein known as ELMO in order to robustly induce the spread of breast cancer cells."
"Our results allowed us to identify ELMO as a new potential therapeutic target to prevent the invasion of cancer cells and the formation of metastasis," concludes Dr. Côté. "This discovery could eventually lead to the development of new treatments for triple negative breast cancer."
Triple negative breast cancer accounts for 15 to 20 per cent of all breast cancers and is associated with a poor prognosis and increased risk of metastasis to vital organs. It is characterized by the absence of three key receptors typically targeted by standard breast cancer treatments. As such, no targeted therapy is currently available for triple negative breast cancer.
According to the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation, breast cancer is the most common kind of cancer in women. In 2013, an estimated 6,000 women in the province will have been diagnosed with breast cancer and 1,350 will have died from it. These statistics indicate that, in Quebec, if these trends continue, one in nine women will have breast cancer at least once in her lifetime.
About the research project
This research project was funded by the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation. IRCM researchers (Jean-François Côté, Afnan Abu-Thuraia and Rosemarie Gauthier) worked in collaboration with Rony Chidiac and Jean-Philippe Gratton from the Université de Montréal, Yoshinori Fukui from Kyushu University in Japan, as well as Robert A. Screaton from the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute.
For more information, please refer to the article summary published online by Molecular and Cellular Biology: http://mcb.asm.org/content/early/2014/10/14/MCB.00764-14.abstract.
About Jean-François Côté
Jean-François Côté obtained a PhD in biochemistry from McGill University. He is Associate IRCM Research Professor and Director of the Cytoskeletal Organization and Cell Migration research unit. Dr. Côté is also Associate Research Professor in the Department of Medicine (accreditation in molecular biology, and in biochemistry and molecular medicine) at the Université de Montréal, as well as Adjunct Professor in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at McGill University. He is a Research Scholar from the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé. For more information, visit www.ircm.qc.ca/cote.
About the IRCM
The IRCM (www.ircm.qc.ca) is a renowned biomedical research institute located in the heart of Montréal's university district. Founded in 1967, it is currently comprised of 35 research units and four specialized research clinics (cholesterol, cystic fibrosis, diabetes and obesity, hypertension). The IRCM is affiliated with the Université de Montréal, and the IRCM Clinic is associated to the Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CHUM). It also maintains a long-standing association with McGill University. The IRCM is funded by the Quebec ministry of Economy, Innovation and Export Trade (Ministère de l'Économie, de l'Innovation et des Exportations).
SOURCE: Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM)
For further information: For more information and to schedule an interview with Dr. Côté, please contact: Julie Langelier, Communications Officer (IRCM), firstname.lastname@example.org | (514) 987-5555; Lucette Thériault, Communications Director (IRCM), email@example.com | (514) 987-5535