Research which Walk the Walk has helped fund, could lead to an innovative new treatment for secondary breast cancer

New research reveals the role a molecule called Endo180, made by cells surrounding the tumour, plays in breast cancer spreading and becoming incurable.

Professor Clare Isacke and lab team, taken in 2018

Professor Clare Isacke and her team at the Breast Cancer Now Toby Robins Research Centre at The Institute of Cancer Research, London are carrying out research into secondary breast cancer and potential new treatments. Walk the Walk has helped fund this vital research thanks to money raised by our wonderful supporters!

The scientists want to understand how breast cancer spreads through the body and grows in other organs, such as the brain, bones or lungs. This knowledge will allow them to find new ways to prevent or treat secondary breast cancer.

Breast cancer can “exploit “various cells surrounding the tumour to help it grow and spread around the body. One group of cells involved in this are called fibroblasts. Under normal circumstances, the main role of fibroblasts is to construct a scaffold for tissues. Cells within a tissue attach to it.

However, when influenced by breast cancer cells, the fibroblasts become ‘radicalised’. They are then called cancer-associated fibroblasts (or CAFs) and can help breast cancer grow and spread.

Researchers led by Professor Clare Isacke found that a molecule called Endo180 is present in high quantities in tissues surrounding breast tumours.

They discovered that Endo180 was only made by cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAF’s). When CAFs can’t make Endo180, this has a major impact on breast cancer’s ability to spread.

Scientists also found that as breast cancer cells grow they stimulate normal healthy fibroblasts to become CAFs and make even more of the Endo180 molecule.

Professor Clare Isacke

Next, Professor Isacke and her team will be investigating if targeting the Endo180 molecule with a drug is a suitable new approach to treating breast cancer and stopping it from spreading.

This is an innovative approach, as most cancer treatments work by directly targeting and destroying cancer cells themselves, rather than non-cancer cells.  

Very excitingly, this approach could potentially work for all types of breast cancer, as well as other cancers! Watch this space!

Professor Clare Isacke, Professor of Molecular Cell Biology in the Breast Cancer Now Toby Robins Research Centre at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said:

“The main reason cancer drugs stop working is that tumour cells adapt and evolve, developing mechanisms to avoid being killed by the drug. Coming up with strategies to target the cells that surround and support tumours and identifying drugs that can do this, provides another line of attack that could be used against multiple different types of cancer. One advantage to this approach is that CAFs are much less likely to develop mechanisms to avoid the effects of cancer drugs. 

We are now looking at whether Endo180 could be an effective target in treating breast cancer, as this may be a way to prevent CAFs helping cancer cells grow and spread, therefore stripping away one of cancer’s mechanisms for growth, making it more difficult for the tumour cells to thrive.”

Walk the Walk is delighted to have funded such crucial work at the cutting edge of science, leading to breakthroughs in the treatment and prevention of breast cancer. All support and fundraising really makes a difference - sign up now for a Virtual challenge or make a donation at  



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