A family of proteins that help cancer cells survive and spread around the body may be associated with improved prognosis for some women receiving treatment for breast cancer, research has shown.
The study, led by academics at The University of Nottingham and published online by the academic journal Oncotarget, discovered that when high levels of the protein calpain were detected in large primary breast tumours from patients given chemotherapy treatment to shrink their tumour before surgery, these patients were more likely to survive.
The work, which was funded by the breast cancer research charity Breast Cancer Now, was conducted in the laboratory of Professor Stewart Martin, in the University's Translational and Radiation Biology Research group.
Professor Martin said: "We are passionate about understanding how breast cancer gains the ability to spread around the body, and what makes certain cancers resistant to treatment, so we can improve survival.
"The results increase our understanding of this important protein in breast cancer, particularly in poor prognostic groups, which may be the key to unlocking effective ways to target these proteins to improve patient outcomes."
The latest research involved biopsy specimens taken from women aged between 23 and 83 years old who were treated at the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust between 2005 and 2009 for inflammatory and non-inflammatory breast cancer.
It looked at the expression of calpain in the initial tumour biopsy and again in the biopsied tumour removed following adjuvant chemotherapy which is designed to shrink the cancer before surgery.
The levels of calpain and the resulting survival rates were analysed and those patients with higher levels of calpain were associated with an improved survival rate.