American Association for Cancer Research

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Agent Shows Ability to Suppress Brain Metastasis and Related Damage


January 3, 2012

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  • Brain metastasis remains an unconquered challenge in cancer treatment.
  • Pigment epithelium-derived factor suppressed brain damage.
  • Agent is already being studied for macular degeneration.
PHILADELPHIA — Scientists are one step closer to repairing the damage caused by brain metastasis, a major challenge in cancer treatment, according to data published in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

“We are making progress from the neck down in cancer treatment, but brain metastases are increasing and are often a primary reason patients with breast cancer do not survive,” said Patricia S. Steeg, Ph.D., head of the Women’s Cancers Section at the National Cancer Institute’s Center for Cancer Research.

Steeg, who is also a deputy editor of Clinical Cancer Research, another journal of the AACR, said very few drugs that are effective for the treatment of breast cancer break what scientists call the “blood–brain barrier” and treat disease established inside the brain.

Scientists are striving to understand the mechanisms and effects of brain cancer metastasis.

Steeg and colleagues observed the role of pigment epithelium-derived factor (PEDF) on metastatic breast cancer cell lines. PEDF is currently being studied as a therapy for macular degeneration because it has been shown to protect neurons in the retina.

Researchers found that PEDF managed to suppress the brain metastatic activity of these lines. Furthermore, it exerted a prosurvival effect on neurons and shielded the brain from tumor-induced damage. Specifically, there was a 3.5-fold reduction in the number of dying neurons adjacent to tumors expressing PEDF.

Although further research is needed to confirm these findings and their applicability, Steeg said the findings represent a significant step forward in trying to manage this condition.

This study was supported by the intramural research programs of the National Cancer Institute and the National Eye Institute and by the U.S. Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program.

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The mission of the American Association for Cancer Research is to prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1907, the AACR is the world’s oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research. The membership includes 33,000 laboratory, translational and clinical researchers; health care professionals; and cancer survivors and advocates in the United States and more than 90 other countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise from the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer through high-quality scientific and educational programs. It funds innovative, meritorious research grants, research fellowships and career development awards to young investigators, and it also funds cutting-edge research projects conducted by senior researchers. The AACR has numerous fruitful collaborations with organizations and foundations in the U.S. and abroad, and functions as the Scientific Partner of Stand Up To Cancer, a charitable initiative that supports groundbreaking research aimed at getting new cancer treatments to patients in an accelerated time frame. The AACR Annual Meeting attracts more than 17,000 participants who share the latest discoveries and developments in the field. Special Conferences throughout the year present novel data across a wide variety of topics in cancer research, treatment and patient care, and Educational Workshops are held for the training of young cancer investigators. The AACR publishes seven major peer-reviewed journals: Cancer Discovery; Cancer Research; Clinical Cancer Research; Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention; Molecular Cancer Therapeutics; Molecular Cancer Research; and Cancer Prevention Research. In 2010, AACR journals received 20 percent of the total number of citations given to oncology journals. The AACR also publishes Cancer Today, a magazine for cancer patients, survivors and their caregivers, which provides practical knowledge and new hope for cancer survivors. A major goal of the AACR is to educate the general public and policymakers about the value of cancer research in improving public health, the vital importance of increases in sustained funding for cancer research and biomedical science, and the need for national policies that foster innovation and the acceleration of progress against the 200 diseases we call cancer.

Media Contact:
Jeremy Moore
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Jeremy.Moore@aacr.org