Researchers from the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans have discovered a key change in the body’s defense system that increases the chance for breast cancer to spread.

The cellular defense system called the ISG15 pathway is normally involved in fighting bacterial and viral infection.

Lead researcher Shyamal Desai, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, found that the pathway is triggered to disrupt normal cytoskeletal function in breast cancer patients, increasing the possibility that cancer cells will metastasize.

"Our findings, for the first time, causally link an alteration in the ISG15 pathway during transformation with metastatic potential," notes Dr. Shyamal Desai, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans, "thus providing a novel therapeutic target for future drug discovery."

The results of the study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, are published in this month’s issue ofExperimental Biology and Medicine.