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Modified “Sticky” Protein Halts Spread of Cancer

Nutrition Review

By CP Staff

Researchers in the US and Sweden have slowed the spread of human breast cancer cells in mice treated with a modified form of protein, galectin-3, that aids cancerous cells in lodging in other parts of the body. It's when tumors spread to essential organs, such as the liver or lung, that they become fatal. Galectin-3 plays a vital role in cancer formation by promoting cell-to-cell adhesion. “The idea was to break that contact and inhibit secondary cancer formation,” stated Gary Jarvis of the University of California in San Francisco. “If we can stop metastasis in humans, we will have gone a long way towards successfully treating cancer.” His team removed the key part of galectin-3 that normally allows cells to stick to each other. The modified protein also occupies the site on a cell's surface blocking normal galectin-3 from binding. This stops cells from adhering to each other. “We were able to significantly reduce the spread of the disease and decrease tumor growth without any evidence of toxicity,” according to Jarvis. The modified protein more than halved the number of mice that developed metastatic tumors. The growth of the implanted tumors was also significantly less in mice treated with the modified protein compared to the control mice. “It's not only affecting metastasis, it's reducing the primary tumor a lot.” “We're not trying to develop a cure for cancer,” says Jarvis. “What we're trying to do is make cancer a disease that one can live with. Clin Cancer Res. 2003 Jun;9(6):2374-83.