Hide and seek

A two-part strategy for chasing dormant breast cancer cells out of hiding

Duke University researchers and their collaborators have identified the mechanism by which breast cancer cells hide in bone marrow to evade chemotherapy, and developed a two-part strategy for flushing them out. The mechanism falls neatly in the lap of GlycoMimetics Inc., providing a rationale for why the company's next clinical candidate, GMI-1359, might have an advantage in breast cancer.

The compound is a dual inhibitor of the cell adhesion molecule E selectin and CXCR4, the receptor for the chemokine CXCL12. In a paper published last month in Science Translational Medicine, the Duke group showed that breast cancer cells gain entry to the bone by binding E selectin in bone blood vessels, and then bind CXCL12 just outside the vessels to take root in the perisinusoidal regions of the bone marrow where they hide out (see Figure: Bad to the bone).

Dorothy Sipkins, who led the study and is an associate professor at Duke University Medical Center, told BioCentury that even in the earliest stages of breast cancer, or after treatment when clinical tests show no

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