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New breast cancer treatment could stop recurrence

A new way to prevent breast cancer cells recurring has been discovered by scientists at the University of Manchester.

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Dr Robert Clarke has been researching a type of cell known to produce breast cancer cells, called cancer-initiating stem cells (CSCs). Previous research has shown cancer treatments kill tumour cells in the breast but leave the CSCs intact, which later form new tumours.

But Dr Clarke, a breast cancer campaign scientific fellow based at The Christie, has discovered CSC surfaces are covered with a receptor called Notch 4. By targeting the receptor with drugs, the root of the tumour is completely destroyed and cannot re-grow or form a new blood supply.

The discovery, published in Cancer Research journal, may make Notch 4 an important target for future treatments against breast cancer recurrence, but clinical trials are still taking place for treatments on other Notch receptors.

Dr Clarke said: “Treatments to stop Notch4 receptors from working could be a triple whammy for breast cancer: preventing cancer cells from forming their own blood supply, making tumours more susceptible to chemotherapy and killing the CSCs. This will not only shrink breast tumours but prevent CSCs from surviving treatment and spreading the disease.”

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