Researchers from the Cancer Science Institute of Singapore found that managing the levels of the tumor supressor TIP60 protein could reduce the metastasis of breast cancer cells, according to Science Daily. The scientists discovered that TIP60 reacts with the proteins DNMT1 and SNAIL2 to stop breast cancer cells from spreading.

The research was published in the Journal of Molecular Cell Biology this past September. This is the first study that has uncovered the role TIP60 plays in preventing metastasis among breast cancer patients.

“In this study, we found that the absence of TIP60 raises the levels of DNMT1, resulting in the activation of SNAIL-2 function. When this molecular program is turned on, epithelial cells – which protect or enclose organs – acquire migratory and invasive properties. This leads to the spreading of cancer cells. Understanding this mechanism holds the important key to suppressing the migration of cancer cells,” said Zhang Yanzhou, a final year PhD student from CSI Singapore’s Graduate Programme in Cancer Biology, and first author of the study.

The discovery is important for breast cancer patients with poor overall survival expectations, Science Daily reports. Patients with lower survival expectation and Disease-Free Survival prognoses were found to have reduced rates of the TIP60 tumor suppressor.

“This study provides important evidence that TIP60 levels could possibly serve as prognostic marker of breast cancer progression, and the stabilization of TIP60 could be a promising strategy to treat cancers. We are currently developing inhibitors which can increase TIP60 levels and in turn, prevent the spread of cancer. Moving forward, we are also looking into collaborating with clinician scientists from the National University Health System to initiate clinical trials using DNMT1 inhibitors to treat breast cancer patients and decrease metastasis by targeting cells that have lower levels of TIP60 as these cells are more likely to be invasive,” said Assistant Professor Jha.

Along with breast cancer, this research could be vital for other types of cancer such as cervical and colon cancers. Patients with these types of cancer have also been found to have reduced rates of the TIP60 protein. Scientists can now use this information to design better treatments in the future targeting the tumor suppressor TIP60 and the proteins DNMT1 and SNAIL2.

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