A new study published in the Journal Nature Medicine, suggests that an existing drug in the market to treat osteoporosis could be an another option in fighting against breast cancer.
The research shows that the drug called ‘denosumab’ can stop certain breast tissue cells with the mutation from morphing into cancerous tumors, said by Jane Visvader, a scientist at Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Australia and co-author of the study.
“If this is an effective prevention strategy, then our hope is that it will be possible to prevent or delay breast cancer in women with a BRCA1 mutation and possibly other women at high genetic risk,” she said.
“It would be great if this strategy could ‘buy time’ for women considering having mastectomies.” Visvader added.
In a sample for the study, 33 samples of breast tissue with no BRCA1 mutations and 24 samples of breast tissue with the mutations have been analyzed. Researchers found that a molecule called RANK was prevalent in a certain subset of cells in the BRCA1 breast tissue. Those cells most likely to turn into cancer cells.
“We have now been able to pinpoint the precise culprit cells and were very excited to see that they express the RANK protein,” said Geoff Lindeman, a clinician-scientist at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and a co-author of the study.
“Over the last few years, it has become increasingly clear from the work of several groups that RANK ligand, which switches on RANK, is an important regulator of cell growth in the breast.” he added.
The researchers attempted to stop RANK in those cells through injecting sample tissues with a dose of denosumab as an inhibitor. It’s an approved drug known to target RANK ligand and use to treat bone-related conditions, which is osteoporosis or bone loss in cancer patients.
The researchers repeated the strategy using an inhibitor in mice experiments, and it turned out that the inhibitor was successful in delaying and preventing tumor growth in both tissue samples and mice compared with samples and mice that didn’t receive the drug.
Lindeman said, three women with a BRCA1 mutation were treated with denosumab and looks that the results were promising.
Researchers concluded that denosumab injections could possibly be used in women with high risk of breast cancer as preventive measure. They called the study as “holy grail” of breast cancer prevention.
But, of course, it will need more tests and trials before denosumab considered for use as a breast cancer preventive drug.
Researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center plans to conduct a clinical trial, where Dr. Francisco Esteva, professor at NYU Langone’s Perlmutter Cancer Center said that they hope to further examine the molecular changes that occur in breast tissue when a dose of denosumab administered, since he was not involved in the most recent study.
“The new study does not change any management or clinical use of any drugs at this point, but it provides data that can be tested in a clinical trial,” he said.
“The data are compelling.” he added.
Lindeman and Visvader said that their research team also hopes to contribute in a large international collaborative clinical trial within next two years.
Starting within the next two years, Lindeman and Visvader said that their research team also hopes to contribute in a large international collaborative clinical trial.