Wrong connective tissue linked to poorer breast cancer prognosis

By Tauren Dyson

Dec. 4 (UPI) -- Researchers in Sweden have pinpointed two types of connective tissue cells associated with the worse breast cancer prognosis', a study says.

The study, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, identified the two cell types that help cancer cells to metastasize after examining 768 connective tissue cells in a mouse with breast cancer.


Vascular fibroblasts are the cells responsible for blood cell development, and matrix fibroblasts produce the tissue that stabilizes cancer tumors. The researchers found a third type of cells are actually tumor cells that look like connective tissue.

"It is a well-known fact that tumor cells must undergo a transformation to acquire more connective tissue-like properties in order to be able to spread in the body -- a process known as epithelial-mesenchymal transition," Michael Bartoschek, a researcher at Lund University and the study's principal author, said in a press release. "We were able to follow how, step by step, the malignant cells start to invade the surrounding tissue. However, more detailed studies are needed to follow their journey all the way to a metastatic tumor in another organ."

The new study builds on older research that established that blood vessel growth and tumor development but didn't know how.


Researchers from Lund University discovered that vascular fibroblasts or matrix fibroblasts drove the development of metastases in patients with cancer tumors.

Drugs that interrupt the tumor cell communication currently exist. But the new research could further the development of drugs that zero in on specific functions within connective tissue cells to provide better therapy to cancer patients, researchers say.

"We are convinced that more knowledge of the cellular structure of tumors and the function of communication between different cell types will enable us to find new ways to treat tumor diseases," Pietras said. "In addition, measurements of the number of different connective tissue cells within a tumor can be developed to assess the risk of cancer recurrence in patients."

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