UMass Researcher Studies How Breast Cancer Spreads

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Research learns more about breast cancer metastasis.

Ninety percent of cancer-related deaths are due to metastasis, according to the American Cancer Society. This term describes when cancer cells spread to other parts of the body like the brain, bones, liver and lungs. Breast cancer is one form of the disease where this happens and researchers are working to understand why.

Shelly Peyton, a chemical engineer at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, is studying breast cancer metastasis using artificial tissues. She discovered that the most aggressive cancers tend to move toward bone tissue.

"We're trying to understand how breast cancer spreads through the body," Peyton said in a statement. "It doesn't move randomly and almost always ends up in a few areas of your body, and that's what makes it so deadly."

Another notable finding from Peyton's research is that the growth of some forms of cancer cells accelerate when chemotherapy is administered. This suggests that in some cases that method of treating cancer should be avoided or limited.  

Peyton began her research with endowments from various institutions. Most recently, she received a five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to help expand her laboratory and continue her cancer study.

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