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RANKL protein pro-tumor, aided by T cells

Scientists have known that high levels of T-cells in breast cancer tumors is a bad sign of cancer metastasis. Now a new report in the journal Nature links T-cells with a protein called RANKL, reports the University of California, San Diego, where the research was conducted.

The study is titled "Tumour-infiltrating regulatory T cells stimulate mammary cancer metastasis through RANKL-RANK signalling."

T cells are tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes, which means that the regulatory white blood cells - meant to control one's immune system - leave the bloodstream and move into a tumor, according to the National Cancer Institute.

RANKL-RANK are the names of the two substances that bind together and signal mammary cancer cells to overexpress a gene with the potential to cause cancer, Erbb2, thus helping to spread breast cancer to other areas, reports the Nature article.

"What is exciting about this study is that now that we understand an increase in RANKL translates to an increase in metastasis, we can get to work on figuring out ways to stop or slow the production of RANKL in breast cancer patients," said Michael Karin, Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology and Pathology at UCSD's Laboratory of Gene Regulation and Signal Transduction and Moores Cancer Center.
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