In his lab, Lehigh University biochemist Jack Alhadeff, PhD, isolated the enzyme in the tissue samples, distinguishing an active form from an inactive form of the enzyme.
Women in the study who had a recurrence of cancer had high levels of the active form of the enzyme, while women with benign tumor had about half the amount of the active form.
"Of the breast cancer patients in the study, 12 of the women have passed away from the disease and all 12 were in the high-risk group based on the level of Cathepsin D in their tissue," notes Dr. Alhadeff
."We will continue to follow those in the high-risk group to check on recurrence of the disease."
The study could also lead researchers to develop a drug to stop the active form of Cathepsin D from enabling the spread of cancer, adds Dr. Alhadeff