If breast cancer remains in the breast, it is not fatal. Its worse threat comes from metastasis — when the cancer spreads to other parts of the body, such as bone, liver, lungs and brain. An estimated 155,000 Americans have metastatic breast cancer, which claims some 40,000 lives each year. Up to 30 percent of people initially diagnosed with early-stage disease will eventually develop metastatic breast cancer.
In prior and pioneering research analyzing circulating tumor cells, Min Yu identified the protein kinase TAK1 as a potentially important factor in metastasis. This project focuses on using nanoparticles to deliver oxozeaenol, a TAK1 inhibitor, which could result in a new type of treatment for metastatic breast cancer. The team is testing the treatment in mouse models, using different types of TAK1 constructs and oxozeaenol-containing nanoparticles.
The results to date have shown that nanoparticle-delivered TAK1 inhibitor can suppress metastatic tumor formation. If these promising outcomes continue in future studies, this nanotherapy could provide hope to countless women. It could also help patients with other types of tumors in which TAK1 has been implicated as a factor driving growth, including lymphoma, colon cancer and pancreatic cancer.