A protein necessary for lactation has for the first time been shown to inhibit the critical cellular transition that is an early indicator of breast cancer and its spread.
The protein, Elf5, normally controls the genes that allow for milk production. But scientists found that removing it in mice caused epithelial cells in the mammary glands to become more mesenchymal – more like stem cells – which is an early sign of cancer.
This shows that Elf5 keeps normal breast cells in their current shape and restricts their movement.
This new research reveals the complex pathways through which breast cancers develop and provides new avenues to pursue for diagnostics and treatments.