Discovering links between blood clotting and breast cancer
Your blood contains proteins known as clotting factors. When a blood vessel is cut, the clotting factors help form a solid clot that acts as a plug to stop the wound bleeding. Normally, blood clotting occurs when a blood vessel is damaged and bleeds. If the blood clots when a vessel is not damaged, a clot can form within a vein or artery (thrombosis) and restrict the blood flow.
There is an increased risk of DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) in people with cancer as their blood appears to clot easier. Analysis of a group of patients with cancer and DVT show they have a worse prognosis – they appear to have more aggressive cancer than patients with cancer and who don’t have thrombosis.
Therefore, it appears that there may be a link between cancer and clotting.
DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) is very early cancer which occurs in the milk ducts of the breasts. These cells are all contained inside the ducts and have not started to spread into the surrounding breast tissue.
Many clinicians describe DCIS as ‘pre-cancer’, because as it is contained, has not spread and so is not causing harm. However, if not treated DCIS can spread into the surrounding breast tissue and become invasive breast cancer. It is often picked up by mammograms when women are screened for breast cancer. DCIS accounts for around 25% of all of these diagnoses.
We have seen signs of increased clotting in the breast tissue (fibroblasts) that surrounds DCIS. This has led us to wonder whether clotting may help cancer escape from the milk ducts and progress from pre-cancer (DCIS) into invasive cancer.
Our researchers aim to find an alternative method for preventing the spread of this early or ‘pre-cancer’ into the rest of the breast, and becoming true ‘invasive’ cancer. To do this they will look at the effects of anticlotting drugs on DCIS cells and other breast cells (fibroblasts) in the laboratory.
- Our researchers hope to determine if the cells that cause clotting make DCIS cells behave like invasive breast cancer cells, and make normal cells act like DCIS cells.
- They also hope to determine if anti-clotting drugs slows or stops the progression of normal cells into DCIS cells, and DCIS cells into invasive cancer cells .
We hope that if the results from this study and further studies are promising, this will lead to patient trials of drugs that may halt the progression of DCIS.
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