In what could be claimed a major breakthrough against breast cancer, scientists have discovered a protein which could stop tumours from growing and spreading.

A team, led by the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam, has identified the protein, BRD7, a discovery which may pave the way for potential new treatments to combat breast cancer that affects millions of women worldwide.

According to the scientists, the protein activates an anti-cancer gene, P53, which is already known to combat breast and other tumours.

Without the protein, the gene cannot function to stop tumours spreading. The tumour suppressor P53 gene, present in all people, is implicated in up to half of all tumours.

In their research, the scientists, led by Professor Reuven Agami, found that the protein BRD7 activates P53 and could suppress the development of breast cancer, the Daily Express reported.

According to Prof Agami, although it is not clear how BRD7 can prevent the formation of a tumour, it is known that it is not always present in breast cancer. He found that BRD7 activates P53, but when it is not present healthy cells can develop into a tumour.

“I think we have got more understanding of how breast tumours develop,” Prof Agami said.

The findings, published in the Nature Cell Biology journal, have been welcomed by cancer experts.

Dr Caitlin Palframan of Breakthrough Breast Cancer said: “This research is very interesting because it identifies for the first time that this protein could have a role to play in a significant proportion of breast and other cancers. (However) further studies are now needed to confirm this protein’s role in cancer before it could be considered a potential target for new treatments.”

More In: Medicine | Health | Sci-Tech