Tackling tumour ‘scaffolding’ slows breast cancer

Scottish scientists say stopping cells being 'hijacked' could be key to treatment

Women take part in a breast cancer awareness run in Spain. EPA
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Researchers have found that breast cancer tumours could be prevented from growing by tackling the “scaffolding” that surrounds them.

Scientists in Glasgow from the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute showed that tumours create a large amount of the amino acid proline and found that when they stopped its production, cancer cells were less likely to grow and spread.

Proline is used to make collagen, which is required to form skin, hair and nails, but in cancer it can be used to build the “scaffolding” around which tumours can grow.

The study, published in Nature Metabolism, stated that collagen in cancer is produced by cells called cancer-associated fibroblasts which have become hijacked by cancer to provide the tumour with the essential materials it needs to grow.

The researchers believe that blocking the proline in the cancer-associated fibroblasts could be the key to treating breast cancer.

Each year about 55,900 people are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK, with about 4,800 people diagnosed each year in Scotland.

Professor Sara Zanivan of the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute said: “A high level of collagen production is linked to more aggressive forms of breast cancer.

“Preventing cancer-associated fibroblasts from providing tumours with the essentials they need to grow could be key to slowing, or even preventing, the growth of tumours in aggressive forms of breast cancer.”

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Updated: June 21, 2023, 6:53 AM