Impeding cell movement ‘could stop spread of cancer’

7 July 2014

New insights into how cells move around the body could lead to the development of techniques that stop cancer from spreading and causing secondary tumours, according to new research from University College London (UCL).

The study demonstrates how cells can transform into an an invasive, liquid-like state to navigate their way around the human body. This mutation is triggered by chemical signals, which could be hindered in order to stop cancer metastasising.

According to the research team, most cancer deaths stem from secondary tumours that develop in vital organs. These are caused by cells moving from the original malignancy to other areas in the body.

The study used embryonic cells to investigate how groups of cells move to spread the disease. Scientists discovered a molecule - lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) - that changes the cells from solid to liquid-like states, allowing them to pass through tissues. 

Researchers were able to switch the signals from the LPA, which stopped the cells from moving down narrow, blood vessel-like channels.

Professor Roberto Mayor, lead author, said: “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.”

Posted by Edward Bartel

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