Predicting patient-to-patient variability in proteolytic activity and breast cancer progression
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About one in eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. Moreover, patient-to-patient variability in disease progression continues to complicate clinical decisions in diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer patients. Early detection of tumors is a key factor influencing patient survival, and advancements in diagnostic and imaging techniques has allowed clinicians to spot smaller sized lesions. There has also been an increase in premature treatments of non-malignant lesions because there is no clear way to predict whether these lesions will become invasive over time. Patient variability due to genetic polymorphisms has been investigated, but studies on variability at the level of cellular activity have been extremely limited. An individual’s biochemical milieu of cytokines, growth factors, and other stimuli contain a myriad of cues that pre-condition cells and induce patient variability in response to tumor progression or treatment. Circulating white blood cells called monocytes respond to these cues and enter tissues to differentiate into monocyte-derived macrophages (MDMs) and osteoclasts that produce cysteine cathepsins, powerful extracellular matrix proteases. Cathepsins have been mechanistically linked to accelerated tumor growth and metastasis. This study aims to elucidate the variability in disease progression among patients by examining the variability of protease production from tissue-remodeling macrophages and osteoclasts. Since most extracellular cues initiate multiple signaling cascades that are interconnected and dynamic, this current study uses a systems biology approach known as cue-signal-response (CSR) paradigm to capture this complexity comprehensively. The novel and significant finding of this study is that we have identified and predicted donor-to-donor variability in disease modifying cysteine cathepsin activities in macrophages and osteoclasts. This study applied this novel finding to the context of tumor invasion and showed that variability in tumor associated macrophage cathepsin activity and their inhibitor cystatin C level mediates variability in cancer cell invasion. These findings help to provide a minimally invasive way to identify individuals with particularly high remodeling capabilities. This could be used to give insight into the risk for tumor invasion and develop a personalized therapeutic regime to maximize efficacy and chance of disease free survival.