Press Release: Enzyme behind cancer spread found

Thomas R. Cox, Mar 2009

Our recent paper in Cancer Cell has been covered by the BBC

“Scientists say they have identified an enzyme that helps cancer spread around the body”


Image: BBC News – Breast cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body

Cancer metastasis, where the cancer spreads from its original location, is known to be responsible for 90% of cancer-related deaths. Institute of Cancer Research scientists have found that an enzyme called LOX is crucial in promoting metastasis, Cancer Cell journal reports. Drugs to block this enzyme’s action could keep cancer at bay, they hope.

LOX (lysyl oxidase) works by sending out signals to prepare a new area of the body for the cancer to set up a camp. Without this preparation process the new environment would be too hostile for the cancer to grow.

“This new discovery provides real hope that we can develop a drug which will fight the spreading of cancer “

Dr Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK’s science information manager, said: “A better understanding of how cancer spreads is crucial to improving the treatment of the disease. This research takes scientists a step closer to understanding this major problem – the next stage will be to find out if the LOX protein can be switched off to stop cancer spreading.”


View the BBC News press release
View article on Cancer Cell homepage
View abstract on PubMed


Erler JT*, Bennewith KL*, Cox TR, Lang G, Bird D, Koong A, Le QT, Giaccia AJ. Hypoxia-induced lysyl oxidase is a critical mediator of bone marrow cell recruitment to form the premetastatic niche
Cancer Cell; Jan 6;15(1):35-44 (2009) | doi: 10.1016/j.ccr.2008.11.012 


This research was supported by funds from the National Institutes of Health, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Institute of Cancer Research, and Cancer Research UK