A study published in EMBO Molecular Medicine found that the loss of function of the gene RARRES3 in breast cancer cells promotes metastasis to the lung.

RARRES3 is suppressed in estrogen receptor-negative (ER-) breast cancer tumors, thus stimulating the later invasion of the cancer cells and conferring them “a greater malignant capacity,” says Gomis, head of the Growth control and cancer metastasis lab at the IRB.

The study describes that RARRES3 loss of function allows the breast tumour cell to develop the adhesion capacity of malignant cells when settling in lung tissue. Furthermore, after losing RARRES3, cells also lose differentiation capacity (specialization in a specific cell type), which facilitates the initiation of metastases in distant tissues.