Novel Insight into How Cancer Spreads Could Offer New Treatments
Posted by LFCT
Once a cancer has metastisised, it becomes far more difficult to treat, and even though Chemotherapy, Radiation Therapy, Hormone Therapy, and various other treatments can yield success for some metastatic cancers, the prognosis for most is poor.
Researchers are therefore working full-out to find methods of preventing cancer from metastasising in the first place – and a recent study shows promise for a treatment that does just that.
According to a study published in Nature Communications, researchers from the Barts Cancer Institute at Queen Mary University London (QMUL), may have made one of the biggest discoveries regarding the spread of cancer in recent times; an unusual mechanism by which cancer cells spread and survive in the body.
The study showed how two molecules join forces to help cancer cells survive as they metastasise.
Lead researcher Dr. Stéphanie Kermorgant and colleagues set out to see what happens when cancer cells break away from tumours in cell cultures, mice and zebra fish.
They found that “integrins“(proteins on the surface of a cell that bind and communicate with its surroundings) play a vital role in the survival of cancer cells after they detach from a primary tumour.
Integrins are known to engage in “outside-in” and “inside-out” signalling, which helps cancer cells bind to their surrounding environment.
When cancer cells travel during metastasis, however, the integrins adopt “inside-in” signalling, in which a form of defence signalling occurs within the cell.
Integrins are cell surface adhesion (sticking) proteins that allow cells to interact with the environment. In cancer these proteins can “misbehave” and this can contribute to the development of cancer, and to cancer spreading (metastasis)
The authors explain:
“The integrin beta-1 (β1) teams up with a protein called c-Met, and both proteins travel together inside the cancer cell. The proteins then move to a location within the cell that is normally used for degradation and recycling of cell material. However, the proteins use this location to send a signal to other areas of the cancer cell, triggering a defence against cell death.”
This is the first time such a process has been identified in cancer metastasis.
The team then set out to see what would happen if both β1 and c-Met were prevented from entering cells or from traveling to the location needed for defence signalling.
On testing both strategies on breast and lung cells, they found that the cells were much less likely to metastasise, suggesting that β1 and c-Met play a vital role in cancer progression.
Dr. Kermorgant and colleagues believe their findings suggest that stopping β1 from initially entering cancer cells could be an effective way to combat cancer metastasis.
While integrin inhibitors are already being tested as cancer treatments, at present, such drugs target integrin signalling activity on the surface of cancer cells. The team says this may explain why these medications have yielded poor results.
“Metastasis is currently incurable and remains one of the key targets of cancer research. Our research advances the knowledge of how two key molecules communicate and work together to help cancer cells survive during metastasis. We’re hoping that this might lead to the discovery of new drugs to block the spread of cancer within the body,” added Dr. Kermorgant