We sought to identify signaling pathways that support the survival of metastasized breast cancer cells and thereby extend the period during which metastasis may emerge after the diagnosis and removal of a breast tumor, senior study author Dr. Joan Massague, of the cancer biology and genetics programs at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, explained in a journal news release.

The researchers collected 600 breast tumors samples and analyzed that a cancer-related enzyme called Src was associated with late-onset bone metastasis. The association was selective and specific for breast cancer cell survival in bone marrow and was independent of breast cancer subtype.

Massague and team then predicted Src-regulated signaling molecules that were expressed in bone marrow and promoted survival of breast cancer cells. In addition, they found that Src increased resistance to a key cell death-inducing signal.

The findings provides insights into breast cancer’s spread, and suggests strategies to hasten the attrition of disseminated breast cancer cells, the researchers concluded. They also noted that drugs designed to inhibit Src which have recently been developed, are matter of consideration to help fight tumor recurrence.