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Finding Cause of Cancer Metastasis May Lead to New Treatments

Finding Cause of Cancer Metastasis May Lead to New Treatments

MesotheliomaHelp has reported on a variety of studies recently where researchers have delved into the reason for metastasis in cancer. Many of the findings focused on cancer pathways. Now, in a new study, researchers report a pair of molecules may be the reason cancers grow unchecked. For aggressive cancers like mesothelioma that elude treatments, this finding could lead to a new treatment that ends cancer growth.

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London’s Barts Cancer Institute of England, led by Dr Stéphanie Kermorgant, report that they focused their research on understanding how cancer cells can continue to thrive after they break away from the primary tumor – when they are most vulnerable. They knew that integrins, or proteins on the cell surface, use ‘outside-in’ and ‘inside-out’ signaling to anchor cancer cells in place. But, using lung and breast cancer cell cultures from zebrafish and mice, they discovered that once the cancer cells began their metastasis process and were floating the integrins started using ‘inside-in’ signaling, or signaling from within the cell.

“Metastasis is currently incurable and remains one of the key targets of cancer research,” said Dr. Kermorgant. “Our research advances the knowledge of how two key molecules communicate and work together to help cancer cells survive during metastasis.”

They found that the beta-1 and c-Met proteins pair up, and migrate into the floating cancer cell to an area that is typically reserved for signaling cell death. Instead, in the case of floating cancer cells, the proteins’ “inside-in” signaling actually guides the rest of the cells to resist death.

Pleural mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs caused by past asbestos exposure, is one cancer that is highly aggressive and spreads quickly to other sites. Survival is typically one year after diagnosis. Research shows that metastasis is the cause of nearly 90 percent of cancer deaths, making it critically important that researchers fully understand how to stop metastasis to increase survival in mesothelioma patients.

The QMUL researchers report that current research for integrins focuses on trying to prevent the anchor from failing, or keeping the cells attached in place and not migrating. However, they plan to prevent the integrin from getting inside the cells in the first place, thus, leading “to the design of better therapies against metastasis and more effective treatment combinations that could prevent and slow both tumour growth and spread.”

“We hope that our support of this exciting research will one day lead to better treatments that can prevent the spread of cancer,” said Dr. Susie Gray, Research and Communications Officer at Rosetree Trust, one of the organizations that provided funding for the research.

2,500 to 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year in the U.S. Mesothelioma takes decades to appear after exposure, but then advances rapidly.

The results of the study can be found in the June 23 issue of Nature Communications.

Photo Credit: Barts Cancer Institute, QMUL

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