Tumor blood vessels prevent the spread of cancer cells

February 11, 2013

A lack of the protein endoglin in the blood vessels of tumour-bearing mice enables the spread of daughter tumours, according to researchers at Karolinska Institutet and Lund University in Sweden in a study published in the scientific periodical The Journal of Experimental Medicine. Given that the tumour vasculature constitutes an important barrier to the spread of cancer cells, the team suggests that drugs should be developed to strengthen the blood vessels' protective function.

Studies of the process of metastasis (the spread of daughter tumours) have mainly focused on how the properties of the cancer cells themselves promote their spread. For the present study, however, the researchers studied the function of a specific consisting of the protein endoglin in the of tumour-bearing mice. They discovered that when the gene that codes for endoglin was missing in the blood vessels in tumours in the breast, lung or pancreas, it led to increased metastatic spread to other organs.

"The study shows that the blood vessels play an important role in preventing the spread of through the blood stream," says Kristian Pietras, professor at Lund University and also affiliated to Karolinska Institutet. "This is because blood vessels lacking in endoglin change in a way that makes it easier for the to enter the blood stream and spread to other organs. So with this in mind, we suggest that drugs should be developed to strengthen the barrier function of the blood vessels to prevent the spread of cancer."

The results of the study are also of significance to patients with the rare congenital syndrome Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia (HHT), which in some patients is caused by the lack of onecopy of the endoglin gene. HHT causes deformities of the and increases the risk of haemorrhage. The researchers believe that HHT patients afflicted by cancer should be monitored particularly closely since their vascular barrier against metastatic spread might be defective.

"At the same time, we also show that tumours that have developed in mice lacking the endoglin gene are considerably more sensitive to treatment with a certain kind of antiangiogenic drugs that target the growth factor VEGF," says Professor Pietras. " patients with cancer may therefore benefit greatly from the VEGF blockers currently in clinical use."

"Going by the results of our study, we also suggest, paradoxically, that a combination of drugs that block endoglin and VEGF should be tried as an effective cancer therapy; a solution thatis already being tested in clinical studies in the USA," he adds.

Explore further: New strategy to attack tumor-feeding blood vessels

More information: 'Deficiency for endoglin in tumor vasculature weakens the endothelial barrier to metastatic dissemination', Charlotte Anderberg, Sara I Cunha, Zhenhua Zhai, Eliane Cortez, Evangelia Pardali, Jill R Johnson, Marcela Franco, Marta Páez-Ribes, Ross Cordiner, Jonas Fuxe, Bengt R Johansson, Marie-José Goumans, Oriol Casanovas, Peter ten Dijke, Helen M Arthur, Kristian Pietras, Journal of Experimental Medicine, online 11 Feb 2013.

Related Stories

New strategy to attack tumor-feeding blood vessels

June 6, 2011
Scientists at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute have discovered a key molecule needed to kill the blood vessels that supply tumours.

Researchers describe a new target for developing anti-angiogenic and anti-tumoral therapies

May 10, 2012
Researchers from the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO), led by Jorge L. Martínez-Torrecuadrada from the Proteomics Unit, have demonstrated that the antibody-based blocking of ephrinB2, a protein involved ...

Recommended for you

Cancer-death button gets jammed by gut bacterium

July 27, 2017
Researchers at Michigan Medicine and in China showed that a type of bacterium is associated with the recurrence of colorectal cancer and poor outcomes. They found that Fusobacterium nucleatum in the gut can stop chemotherapy ...

Researchers release first draft of a genome-wide cancer 'dependency map'

July 27, 2017
In one of the largest efforts to build a comprehensive catalog of genetic vulnerabilities in cancer, researchers from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have identified more than 760 genes ...

Long-sought mechanism of metastasis is discovered in pancreatic cancer

July 27, 2017
Cells, just like people, have memories. They retain molecular markers that at the beginning of their existence helped guide their development. Cells that become cancerous may be making use of these early memories to power ...

Blocking the back-door that cancer cells use to escape death by radiotherapy

July 27, 2017
A natural healing mechanism of the body may be reducing the efficiency of radiotherapy in breast cancer patients, according to a new study.

Manmade peptides reduce breast cancer's spread

July 27, 2017
Manmade peptides that directly disrupt the inner workings of a gene known to support cancer's spread significantly reduce metastasis in a mouse model of breast cancer, scientists say.

Glowing tumor technology helps surgeons remove hidden cancer cells

July 27, 2017
Surgeons were able to identify and remove a greater number of cancerous nodules from lung cancer patients when combining intraoperative molecular imaging (IMI) - through the use of a contrast agent that makes tumor cells ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.