Health Portugal , Castelo Branco, Tuesday, May 26 of 2015, 20:34

A protein has been found that protects against breast cancer

Research with mice at the Universidade da Beira Interior shows that high levels of regucalcin prevent the development of tumours

José Pichel Andrés/DICYT A study of the Universidade da Beira Interior published in the scientific journal Experimental Cell Research shows that a protein known as regucalcin has a protective effect against breast cancer. Experiments were carried out on animals to pave the way to the use of this molecule to prevent tumours or develop therapies.


Mice with increased levels of regucalcin are less susceptible to developing breast tumours, i.e. “they are more resistant to cancer”, DiCYT was told by Sílvia Socorro, a scientist of the Health Science Research Centre (Centro de Investigación en Ciencias de la Salud, CICS) of the Universidad de Beira Interior (UBI). Moreover, the few tumours that did appear in these genetically modified animals were less aggressive with the great majority of them being non invasive.


Regucalcin was initially identified as a calcium-binding protein, but more recently scientists of the CICS-UBI and other research groups have shown that it has other important biological functions as it is involved in controlling cell proliferation and death and has an antioxidant function. According to the experts, all this is perfectly in keeping with its role of protection against cancer that has now been discovered and which is also applicable to humans.


Indeed, human cases of breast cancer show very low levels of regucalcin and as the tumour progresses they drop still further. This leads the researchers to think that as shown by this study the increased presence of this protein may have a protective effect against mammary gland carcinogenesis in women.


Moreover, the scientists of the Universidad de Beira Interior have evidence that it may have a similar effect on other cancer types, especially prostate cancer. “Previous studies carried out by our research group have shown that there is also a lower level of regucalcin in prostatic carcinoma”, the researcher maintains. Moreover, the group demonstrated that the protein avoids the proliferation of the cells of this tumour.


Given these results, the scientists believe that it is at least "conceptually" possible to develop treatment or preventive measures based on the use of regucalcin, as years of study will be needed to develop them and prove that they are both safe and efficient.


For the moment the next steps of the research will be the characterisation of the protein action channels inside the cell and the testing of different methodologies to eliminate or increase its occurrence in human cells. In this way the researchers will find out whether the effects observed in animals can be confirmed. “From this point we can begin to think about the strategies to administer it as a therapeutic or preventive option”, Sílvia Socorro maintains.


Bibliographical references 


Histopathological and in vivo evidence of regucalcin as a protective molecule in mammary gland carcinogenesis. Ricardo Marques, Cátia V. Vaz, Cláudio J. Maia, Madalena Gomes, Adelina Gama, Gilberto Alves, Cecília R. Santos, Fernando Schmitt, Sílvia Socorro. Experimental Cell Research, Volume 330, Issue 2, 15 January 2015, Pages 325–335. doi:10.1016/j.yexcr.2014.08.007


Vaz C, Maia CJ, Marques R, Gomes IM, Correia S, Alves MG, Cavaco JE, Oliveira PF, Socorro S (2014) Regucalcin is an androgen-target gene in the rat prostate modulating cell-cycle and apoptotic pathways. Prostate. 74 (12):1189-1198


Maia CJ, Santos CR, Schmitt F. and Socorro S. (2009) Regucalcin is under-expressed in human breast and prostate cancers: effect of sex steroid hormones. J. Cell. Biochem. 107(4): 667-676.