Blocking cells' movement to stop the spread of cancer

In this image, the cells are stained red for cell protrusion, yellow for cell membrane and blue for nucleus. Credit: Prof. R. Mayor

Insights into how cells move through the body could lead to innovative techniques to stop cancer cells from spreading and causing secondary tumours, according to new UCL research.

Scientists discovered that can change into an invasive, liquid-like state to readily navigate the in our body. This transformation is triggered by , which could be blocked in order to stop from spreading.

Most deaths are not due to primary tumours, but to secondary tumours in vital organs, such as the lungs or brain, caused by cells moving from the original tumour to other places in the body.

The study led by UCL researchers and published today in the Journal of Cell Biology, used embryonic cells to investigate how groups of cells move in a developmental process similar to that used by cancer to spread around the body.

The team report a molecule called lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) changes cells from a solid-like to a liquid-like state, allowing cells to flow between normal tissues in the body. Scientists were able to switch off the signals from LPA, stopping the cells from moving down narrow, blood vessel-like channels.

Lead scientist Professor Roberto Mayor (UCL Cell & Developmental Biology), said: "We have found a way to stop the movement of by blocking LPA signals. It is likely that a similar mechanism operates during cancer invasion, which suggests a promising alternative in which cancer treatments might work in the future, if therapies can be targeted to limit the tissue fluidity of tumours.

"Our findings are important for the fields of cell, developmental and cancer biology. Previously, we thought cells only moved around the body either individually or as groups of well-connected cells. What we have discovered is a hybrid state where cells loosen their links to neighbouring cells but still move en masse together, like a liquid. Moreover, we can stop this movement".

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Generation of tanners see spike in deadly melanoma

5 hours ago

(AP)—Stop sunbathing and using indoor tanning beds, the acting U.S. surgeon general warned in a report released Tuesday that cites an alarming 200 percent jump in deadly melanoma cases since 1973.

Penn team makes cancer glow to improve surgical outcomes

5 hours ago

The best way to cure most cases of cancer is to surgically remove the tumor. The Achilles heel of this approach, however, is that the surgeon may fail to extract the entire tumor, leading to a local recurrence.

Cancer: Tumors absorb sugar for mobility

17 hours ago

Cancer cells are gluttons. We have long known that they monopolize large amounts of sugar. More recently, it became clear that some tumor cells are also characterized by a series of features such as mobility or unlikeliness ...

User comments