‘Tissue ‘highways’ may give breast cancer insight’
In a potential breakthrough for breast cancer, researchers have identified that the way tissue is arranged in and around tumours can help predict the path of the deadly disease, thereby aiding in treatment architecture.
Patricia Keely, an associate professor of cell and regenerative biology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health who headed up the research stated: “We think the cancer cells start to pull on the collagen and straighten it out, forming a track or highway on which the cells can migrate. We have identified a novel collagen-signature system that may become a very useful addition to the tools clinicians use to determine a breast cancer patient’s prognosis.”
Researchers analysed what they describe as “highways” of connective tissue in breast cancer tumours, and found that the way collagen fibers, the main component of connective tissue, are arranged may aid in a patient’s diagnosis and help determine treatment.
Collagen is a type of protein. Fibrous in nature, it connects and supports other bodily tissues, such as skin, bone, tendons, muscles, and cartilage. It also supports the internal organs and is even present in teeth. There are more than 25 types of collagens that naturally occur in the body.
Collagen is one of the most plentiful proteins present in the bodies of mammals, including humans. In fact, it makes up about 25% of the total amount of proteins in the body. Some people refer to collagen as the glue that holds the body together. Without it, the body would, quite literally, fall apart.
Possessing great tensile strength, collagen functions in a manner that is very different from many other types of proteins. For example, it can be found both inside and outside of cells. Collagen fibers are important in contributing to the external structure of cells. However, they are present on the inside of some cells as well.
Two hundred patients with invasive breast cancer were analysed. The investigators found signs that the collagen began to act differently as the tumors progressed. Keely’s team examined 16 collagen “areas of interest” in each sample, looking for TACS-3 in each area. A biostatistician then compared their findings to patient outcome information.
The analysis showed that in samples of early disease, the highway angle appeared parallel to the basement membrane. As tumors became invasive, the collagen realigned, and the angle became 90 degrees relative to the tumour boundary.
Dr. Priscilla A. Furth, a professor of oncology and medicine at Georgetown University’s Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center comments: “This is valid basic research, but before any new prognostic test can go into practice it must be extensively validated. This publication is a first step that might trigger additional research to examine the utility of this type of analysis in different settings and by different groups. From the basic science perspective, this is an interesting observation and should trigger additional studies.”
Keely collaborated with Dr. Kevin Eliceri, director of the Laboratory for Optical and Computational Instrumentation at UW-Madison, to use a special microscope that can provide a three-dimensional look at breast tissue. In the future, portable versions of the microscope could be stationed outside surgery suites for quicker analysis, Keely says.
Sources: The American Journal of Pathology and University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health
Copyright: Medical News Today