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Researchers identify specific molecule that alters how breast cancer cells move

August 28, 2017

"This gives us a more complete understanding of how aggressive breast cancer cells move and the influence of p38-gamma in particular on modifying this motion," says Merajver, professor of internal medicine at the U-M Medical School. "Cell movement is very difficult to observe, which is why mathematical modeling in oncology is valuable."

Merajver hopes this model, which can be applied to other cancer types, will improve understanding of how cells move, allowing researchers to plan better experiments to look at this function.

Identifying p38-gamma's role in breast cancer provides a strong target for potential new therapies, the researchers say. They believe it will be possible to develop a drug that targets only p38-gamma without affecting other pathways, which would make it more tolerable for patients.

"We do have targeted therapies in the clinic, but the total burden of disease that they ameliorate is still relatively minimal. The reasons may not necessarily be that they are not good drugs, but simply that we don't understand how they work, because we don't understand the biology in sufficient detail. That's why studies like this are so important in advancing drug development," Merajver says.

Source: University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center