Researchers at the University of Nottingham, part-funded by Breast Cancer Now, have furthered our understanding of how triple negative breast cancer spreads around the body. This could lead to the development of new treatments that stop triple negative breast cancer from spreading.

a researcher wearing gloves holds a pipette and test tube

NDBTs and triple negative breast cancers

Researchers have discovered that proteins called sodium driven bicarbonate transporters (NDBTs) can help provide the right environment for triple negative breast cancer to spread around the body.

In the future, researchers hope to develop new treatments that target NDBTs and prevent triple negative breast cancer from spreading.

Around 15% of breast cancer are classed as triple negative. This form of breast cancer can be more aggressive, and there are currently limited targeted treatments available.

Some parts of triple negative breast tumours can also have low oxygen levels, which is linked to an increased chance of secondary breast cancer.

Dr Alan Macintyre and his team, based at the University of Nottingham, investigated the role that NDBTs have in triple negative breast cancer spreading around the body, because they become more abundant when a tumour is low in oxygen. To do this, they looked at what happened if these proteins are ‘removed’ or prevented from working properly.

They found that cancer cells were less able to form tumours and invade nearby tissue if NDBTs were prevented from working, suggesting they play a role in breast cancer's ability to spread around the body. They also found that the disruption of NDBTs resulted in less cancer spread, and that secondary tumours in the lung were reduced by 94-98% in mice.

Understanding the role of NDBTs in cancer spreading

Previous research has shown that NDBTs are involved in regulating how acidic tumours are, but Dr. Macintyre and his team wanted to figure out how they can help the disease spread.

They found that preventing NDBTs from working properly affected tumour cells in multiple ways. Not only did it have an effect on how acidic the tumour was, but it also affected processes in tumour cells that are important for cell growth.

Disrupting NDBTs also had an effect on two molecules called LCK and LYN, which are involved in allowing breast cancer cells to move around and become more mobile.

A look into the future

Currently, there are no available drugs that target NDBTs, but this research highlights the importance of studying this group of proteins further. Targeting these proteins could provide a new approach to reducing the spread of triple negative breast cancer and save more lives from the disease.

Dr Kotryna Temcinaite, Senior Research Communications Manager at Breast Cancer Now, said: ‘This exciting study has helped further our understanding of triple negative breast cancer and how it spreads around the body. By identifying NDBTs and the role they play, we could develop treatments in the future that target these molecules and stop this process from happening. This could help save lives from the disease and give women more precious time with their loved ones.’

The study was published in the journal Neoplasia and was funded by the Medical Research Council, Breast Cancer Now and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.


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