Innovative Advancements in Cancer Therapy: Key Mechanism of Breast Cancer Spread Identified

by Santiago Fernandez
breast cancer metastasis

Recent scientific findings have determined that the dynein protein plays an essential role in the motility of breast cancer cells, unveiling a potential new focal point for therapeutic interventions that might immobilize cancer cells, presenting an alternative to the aggressive nature of chemotherapy. While practical clinical use is yet to be achieved, these developments suggest significant prospects for the evolution of tailored cancer treatments.

The deadliest feature of cancers is their ability to metastasize or disseminate throughout the body. Pioneering work conducted by researchers at Penn State has shed light on the process that breast cancer cells might use to penetrate and invade healthy tissue. A critical insight from this research is the identification of dynein, a motor protein, as a key driver of cancer cell migration in soft tissue models, opening new avenues for impeding metastatic spread and transforming the approach to cancer care.

“The implications of this finding are profound in several respects,” remarked Erdem Tabdanov, assistant professor of pharmacology at Penn State and a leading co-corresponding author of the study, which was published in the journal Advanced Science. “Prior to this, dynein’s involvement in cancer cell motility — the process by which they move — had not been documented. With this understanding, targeting dynein could effectively halt the spread of cancer cells, potentially preventing metastasis.”

Collaborative Research and Model Implementation

This research initiative began with a partnership within Penn State, linking the Department of Chemical Engineering with the College of Medicine, and expanded into a collaborative effort including the University of Rochester Medical Center, Georgia Institute of Technology, Emory University, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Utilizing real-time microscopy, the research team observed the migration patterns of live breast cancer cells within two distinct systems designed to simulate the human body. The first, a 2D collagen fiber network, demonstrated how cancer cells traverse the extracellular matrix adjacent to tumors and pinpointed dynein’s role in this process.

The research also leveraged a 3D model, spearheaded by Amir Sheikhi, to better replicate the environment of soft tissue with interconnected hydrogel particles forming tumor-like structures. In this model as well, dynein proved to be indispensable for the cells’ metastatic behavior.

Sheikhi elaborated on the findings: “Our three-dimensional models, which partially emulate a tumor environment, demonstrated that hindering dynein function stalls cancer cell movement and tissue infiltration. This suggests a new strategy for cancer treatment—immobilization of cancer cells rather than destruction, sparing healthy cells the damage typically wrought by conventional treatments.”

New insights provided by this research showcase the mechanics by which breast cancer cells may invade healthy tissue, with the dynein motor protein facilitating cell movement in soft tissue models. These discoveries propose fresh targets for combating metastasis and could lead to a shift in cancer treatment paradigms.

Tabdanov expressed optimism about the potential of cellular immobilization as a more favorable strategy compared to chemotherapy, especially following surgical tumor removal, as it could inhibit further spread of cancer while preserving healthy tissues.

“The dilemma with chemotherapy is that it aims to eradicate cancer cells just slightly faster than it damages the rest of the body,” Tabdanov said. “Such treatments often harm the body’s healthy tissues. If we could contain and immobilize the cancer instead, we could maintain the health of non-cancerous tissues.”

Looking to the Future

Despite the exciting nature of these findings, the researchers acknowledge that clinical applications remain distant, with human and animal trials yet to commence. Sheikhi has initiated multiple patent filings for their innovative platform, which he intends to apply to the study of various diseases, including different forms of cancer.

The potential of this collaborative work between Penn State College of Medicine and other institutions to enable precision medicine and individualized cancer treatments is a source of great enthusiasm.

Reference: “Dynein-Powered Cell Locomotion Guides Metastasis of Breast Cancer” by Yerbol Tagay et al., published on 19 September 2023 in Advanced Science.

This work was supported by Penn State College of Medicine, the Meghan Rose Bradley Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, among others.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about breast cancer metastasis

What is the new discovery in breast cancer treatment?

Researchers at Penn State have identified that the dynein protein is crucial in the movement of breast cancer cells, offering a new approach to therapy that could immobilize cancer cells, presenting a less destructive alternative to chemotherapy.

How does dynein influence breast cancer metastasis?

Dynein, a motor protein, has been found to facilitate the motility of breast cancer cells in soft tissue models. Targeting this protein could potentially halt the spread of these cells and prevent metastasis.

What are the potential benefits of targeting dynein in cancer treatment?

By targeting the dynein protein to immobilize cancer cells, this method could offer a more refined treatment by preventing the spread of cancer without harming healthy cells, unlike traditional chemotherapy which can damage healthy tissue.

What does this mean for the future of personalized cancer therapy?

This discovery lays the groundwork for more personalized approaches to cancer treatment, focusing on immobilizing cancer cells to prevent metastasis, which could lead to tailored therapies with less collateral damage to healthy tissues.

Are there any clinical applications of this discovery yet?

While the findings are promising, clinical applications are not yet available as the research is in the preclinical stage, with human and animal trials still needed.

More about breast cancer metastasis

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Rajiv Chandra November 6, 2023 - 8:23 am

the collab between these big institutions is impressive but i’m curious how they actually pinpoint dynein as the target here, the article doesnt go into much detail on that does it

Emily Sanders November 6, 2023 - 10:27 am

honestly, the whole chemotherapy approach always sounded so harsh, really hope this new research pans out – could be the big breakthrough we’ve been waiting for

Linda Hartley November 6, 2023 - 5:59 pm

Heard about the dynein protein before but never in this context, how long do you think till we see this in actual hospitals

Mike O'Donnell November 6, 2023 - 8:40 pm

seems like every other month there’s a ‘revolutionary’ cancer treatment, getting my hopes up but it’s always years down the line, still cool though

Jake Willis November 6, 2023 - 9:30 pm

this is really exciting stuff the idea that we can just stop cancer cells from moving instead of trying to kill em with chemo that’s a game changer isnt it


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