An international team of researchers has discovered a novel mechanism that allows cancer cells to spread throughout the body, providing a potential new target to stop metastasis, which is to blame for 90% of deaths related to cancer.
The team’s results, which were published in Nature, show that cancer cells undergo a faster movement when they are surrounded by thicker fluids. This is a change that occurs when lymph drainage is impaired by a primary tumor.
About the Study
John D. Lewis, professor and Bird Dogs Chair in Translational Oncology at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry stated that it is the first time that the viscosity of the extracellular fluid is looked at in detail.
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With this discovery, Lewis is hopeful to “potentially use drugs to basically short-circuit that signaling pathway and encourage cancer cells to slow down, or even maybe to stop.”
The Lewis Lab was invited to participate in the experiment run by scientists at Johns Hopkins University because of its proficiency in imagining human cancer cells in real-time motion using the chorioallantoic membrane from fertilized chicken eggs that resemble a placenta.
Findings of the Study
The research team’s contribution to the paper consisted of clearly demonstrating how cancer cells modify their gene expression and become more aggressive when they come into contact with more viscous fluid. These cells remain more aggressive even after the viscosity is reduced.
The ability of cancer cells to escape the bloodstream and metastasize is altered when this signaling pathway is perturbed, Lewis stated.
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The multidisciplinary research team has now published three papers. Lewis attributes the majority of his team’s work to senior research associate Konstantin Stoletov. He warns that it can take 10 to 15 years to develop and test a medicine once a new therapeutic target is found.
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