A new study has found that high levels of good cholesterol, known to protect against heart disease, can elevate the risk of breast cancer or enhance cancer aggressiveness. The research suggests that a high density lipoprotein (HDL), receptor found on breast cancer cells may be responsible for this effect, proposing a new molecular target that could help treat the disease.
According to lead researcher, Philippe Frank, a cancer biologist in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Thomas Jefferson University, they exposed breast cancer cell lines to HDL and noticed that signalling pathways involved in cancer progression were activated, and that the cells began to migrate in an experimental model mimicking metastasis. The researchers then limited the expression of the HDL receptor called SR-BI in the cells using silencing RNA to reduce the receptor's levels.
In response, the activities of the signalling pathways that promote tumour progression were reduced. In addition, cells with fewer SR-BI receptors displayed reduced proliferation rates and migratory abilities than cells with normal SR-BI levels. Most importantly, reduced SR-BI levels were associated with reduced tumour formation in a mouse model of tumorigenesis.
The study was published in the journal Breast Cancer Research.
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