Potential Biomarkers for Aggressive Breast Cancer Discovered

Determining the contents of extracellular vesicles may create targeted treatments.

Researchers recently discovered a potential new biomarker and therapeutic target for the treatment of triple-negative breast cancer in a study published by Oncotarget.

It was previously discovered that extracellular vesicles contain proteins, nucleic acids, and other pathogens released by tumors into blood and other biological fluids.

In the current study, researchers found that the extracellular vesicles transfer their contents to new cells to continue growing. The transfer of pathogenic components allows for communication between cancer cells and distant organs, which leads to progression, metastasis, and drug resistance.

Another recent study found the JAK-STAT gene-signaling pathway may also play a role in triple-negative treatment resistance. This type of cancer typically does not respond to targeted treatments, and may become more likely to recur, compared with other breast cancers.

However, the contents inside of extracellular vesicles are similar to the cells they come from, making it a potential biomarker. This mechanism could also be harnessed as a novel delivery method for cancer drugs.

Assessing extracellular vesicles and their contents was done through examining a small blood sample. This method could provide a non-invasive and simple method to diagnose breast cancer, according to the study.

Researchers were able to identify a group of microRNAs that were not as highly expressed in cells and extracellular vesicles in an aggressive form of triple-negative breast cancer compared with a less aggressive cell line.

They also discovered that miR-134 was the most down-regulated in microRNA in the aggressive cancer cells and their extracellular vesicles. This microRNA was also down-regulated in tumor samples in patients with breast cancer compared with samples of normal breast tissue.

In additional studies, researchers found that delivering miR-134 to triple-negative breast cancer cells reduced its aggressiveness, which suggests a potential treatment target.

Although further research is needed, these findings support the role of extracellular vesicles and their miR-134 content as a potential biomarker and treatment approach, the study concluded.