Breakthrough in cancer research discovered in South Bend

SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- Researchers at the University of Notre Dame made a breakthrough discovery in cancer research. The discovery is believed to be an explanation as to how breast cancer can spread to the bone.

“Currently there’s no treatment for these women, so this could be a major advance in patient care,” said Sharon Stack, Director Harper Cancer Research Institute and Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Notre Dame.

The project started six years ago. The team began to study the critical moment when breast cancer travels to the bone and begins metastasis—or spreading —which forms a tumor.

Researchers have now identified a pair of proteins—CXCL5 and CXCR2—that are believed to be critical for spreading breast cancer to the bone. 

“We hope to save lives with this treatment,” said Laurie Littlepage, Lead Principal Investigator.

“Since bone metastasis is common for other types of cancer too, like prostate cancer, this research might also be relevant to other cancers other than breast cancer,” continued Littlepage.“Then we see this as a great opportunity to develop a new therapy for patients,” said Littlepage.      

Littlepage told ABC 57 that the discovery could expand to benefitting even more than just breast cancer research.

“We’re very excited about this project,” said Laurie Littlepage. “We think that it has a potential to have a major impact on patients who have metastasis to the bone.”

A request for funding for the project was submitted and the team is excited to continue exploring these two proteins, according to Littlepage.

Littlepage told ABC 57 that it was a group effort and the project could not have been possible without everyone involved. 

In a press release, researchers credited:

“The lead author of the study is Ricardo Romero-Moreno, graduate student in the Littlepage lab in the Harper Cancer Research Institute. Additional faculty from Notre Dame who co-authored the study are Glen Niebur, professor in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, and Jun Li, associate professor in the Department of Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics.

Notre Dame graduate students who also collaborated are Kimberly Curtis, Thomas Coughlin, Maria Cristina Miranda-Vergara and Beth Facchine. Undergraduate students at Notre Dame who co-authored the study are Shourik Dutta, Kristen Jackson and Aishwarya Natarajan. William Kaliney, pathologist in residence at the Harper Cancer Research Institute, also contributed to the study.

This research was supported by the Kelly Cares Foundation and the Walther Cancer Foundation.”

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