“Good cholesterol” after all may not be that good. It is known to protect against heart diseases but may up the risk of breast cancer and enhance cancer aggressiveness- scientists have found.
This effect can be a result of a high density lipoprotein (HDL) receptor that is found on breast cancer cells. Researchers have proposed a new molecular target that could help treat the disease.
"If we can block the activity of the HDL receptor in breast cancer, we may be able to limit the harmful effects of HDL, while maintaining levels that are beneficial for blood vessels," said lead researcher Philippe Frank, a cancer biologist in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Thomas Jefferson University.
Frank and colleagues exposed breast cancer cell lines to HDL to study its effect on the cancer cells at the molecular level. They noticed that signalling pathways involved in cancer progression were activated, and that the cells began to migrate in an experimental model mimicking metastasis.
This study supports the idea that HDL plays a role in the development of aggressive breast cancers and that inhibiting its function via SR-BI in breast cancer cells may stall cancer growth. Additional studies will be needed to develop more specific drugs to inhibit SR-BI.
"Also, we need to understand what levels of cholesterol are required by the tumour before trying to reduce or modify lipid levels in cancer patients," said Frank.
"We hope this study will lead to the development of new drugs targeting SR-BI or cholesterol metabolism and eventually preventing tumour progression," he added.
The study was published in the journal Breast Cancer Research.
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