Study reveals new details about a protein that enables cancer cells to start new tumors in distant sites

(Medical Xpress) -- A Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine study has revealed details of the complex molecular process involving a protein that enables cancer cells to establish tumors in distant parts of the body.

The finding could lead the way to new drugs to prevent and other cancers from spreading to new sites.

The study by Adriano Marchese, PhD, and colleagues is published in the March 16 issue of the .

The study involves a molecule on the surface of cells called CXCR4. There is an abnormal abundance of this molecule in 23 , including cancers of the breast, lung, pancreas and thyroid.

What usually kills patients is the spread of cancer from the primary site to other sites. A tumor cell breaks away from the primary site and circulates through the body. A molecule called CXCL12 acts like a beacon to CXCR4, signaling the cancer cell to land and start a new tumor.

The goal of the study was to better understand this complex signaling pathway. (A signaling pathway involves a group of molecules that work together in a cell. After the first molecule in the pathway receives a signal, it activates another molecule, and the process is repeated until the last molecule is activated.)

"We understand the final outcome of this signaling pathway," Marchese said. "What we are trying to do now is understand the molecular details."

In the study, Marchese and colleagues used a line of human cancer cells called HeLa. (The cell line is the subject of the best-selling book "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks".)

Using HeLa , the researchers identified a molecule that is a critical link in the signaling pathway. Researchers hope to target this molecule, thereby disabling the signaling pathway and preventing the cancer cell from setting up shop in a new site, Marchese said.

The next step will be to develop a drug that blocks the . Researchers then would test the drug on an animal model. If the drug worked in animals, it later could be tested in a clinical trial of cancer patients, Marchese said.

"We are laying the groundwork for the development of to stop cancer from spreading," Marchese said.

Related Stories

CXCR4: A new drug target in lung cancer

Apr 29, 2010

Lung cancer patients whose tumors over-express a cell surface molecule called CXCR4 do significantly worse than those who do not, Canadian researchers have found. Their work, reported at the 2nd European Lung Cancer Conference ...

Potential treatment target for KRAS-mutated colon cancer found

Feb 16, 2012

Researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Cancer Center have identified a new potential strategy for treating colon tumors driven by mutations in the KRAS gene, which usually resist both conventional and targeted ...

Deactivating a cancer growth promoter

Sep 25, 2008

Three enzymes called phosphatases that shut down a molecule called SRC-3 (steroid receptor coactivator 3) could provide a new pathway for fighting cancer, particularly tumors of the breast and prostate, said researchers at ...

Recommended for you

New breast cancer imaging method promising

1 hour ago

The new PAMmography method for imaging breast cancer developed by the University of Twente's MIRA research institute and the Medisch Spectrum Twente hospital appears to be a promising new method that could ...

Palliation is rarely a topic in studies on advanced cancer

1 hour ago

End-of-life aspects, the corresponding terminology, and the relevance of palliation in advanced cancer are often not considered in publications on randomized controlled trials (RCTs). This is the result of an analysis by ...

Breast cancer replicates brain development process

1 hour ago

New research led by a scientist at the University of York reveals that a process that forms a key element in the development of the nervous system may also play a pivotal role in the spread of breast cancer.

Is genetic instability the key to beating cancer?

3 hours ago

Cancerous tumors may be poised at the edge of their own destruction, an insight that could help researchers find new, more effective treatments, suggest SFI External Professor Ricard Solé and colleagues in an April 9 paper ...

Phase 3 study may be game-changer for acute myeloid leukemia

7 hours ago

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers say clinical trials for a new experimental drug to treat acute myeloid leukemia (AML) are very promising. Patients treated with CPX-351, a combination of the chemotherapeutic drugs cytarabine ...

User comments