Novel Mechanism Exploits Breast Cancer's Achilles Heel

Targeting a certain antioxidant protein reduces the aggressiveness of triple-negative breast cancer and increases its sensitivity to conventional anti-cancer drugs.

Researchers may have found a way to switch aggressive cancers to become more sensitive to conventional chemotherapy.

In a study published in Antioxidants & Redox Signaling, researchers found that by suppressing the expression of the major antioxidant protein Manganese Superoxide Dismutase (MnSOD) it causes tumor cells in triple-negative breast cancer patients to become less aggressive and more sensitive to chemotherapy.

Prior studies by the research team has revealed that triple-negative breast cancer patients have higher levels of MnSOD. The new findings build upon this previous discovery.

“MnSOD expression is decreased during the initial stages of cancer development,” said first study author Loo Ser Yue. “However, as the cancer advances, MnSOD expression increases and such high MnSOD levels are typically observed in triple-negative breast cancer patients. In fact, we have shown that less aggressive tumors, when artificially made to increase MnSOD protein levels, adopt an aggressive behavior. Our study shows that the amount of MnSOD levels in the tumor cell determines the predominant reactive oxygen species that will tell the tumor cells whether to stay put or to transform into an invasive form that is capable of moving to distal parts of the body.”

As part of the team’s earlier study, they were able to show a novel strategy for targeting the higher levels of MnSOD expression and its activity by using FDA approved drugs.

“Our study provides a novel mechanism for exploiting cancer’s Achilles heel with potential implications for the design of target-specific therapies against aggressive breast cancer,” said researcher Shazib Pervaiz.

The authors noted that the findings suggest MnSOD as a potential target for treatment options in other types of aggressive cancers.