Previous epidemiological studies pointed out a connection between metastatic breast cancer and autoimmune arthritis. In an attempt to confirm the potential connection, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte performed a series of experiments on mouse models.
In the previously published studies, it was established that breast cancer associated metastases were significantly higher in arthritic mice -- with a three-fold increase in lung metastases and a two-fold increase in bone metastases. In the recent study, researchers found that mast cells are present in larger numbers in the bones and lungs of arthritic mice compared to non-arthritic mice. Their findings point to a relationship between a particular receptor found on mast cells and the transmembrane stem cell factor (SCF) ligand found on metastatic breast cancer cells.
Researchers concluded that autoimmune arthritis increases the intensity of metastatic breast cancer because bone marrow stem cells in autoimmune arthritis patients have greater potential to differentiate into mast cells. The hope is that these findings will lead to new treatment options.
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