Genes associated with less aggressive forms of sarcoma identified

26 September 2016

Researchers have identified a number of genes that can lead to the type of cancer known as sarcoma manifesting in a less aggressive form.

A team from Rice University and Duke University made this discovery after examining some of the genes that regulate how cells transition from an epithelial or non-mobile state to a mesenchymal, or migrating, status.

The epithelial-to-mesenchymal (EMT) transition plays a key role in essential developmental processes, but can be hijacked by cells that turn cancerous and metastatic. Meanwhile, the reverse MET process is also important to normal development, but can lead to certain cancer cells settling in distant organs.

This new study showed that in some types of sarcoma, mesenchymal cells acquire a greater share of the traits of stationary epithelial cells, meaning the cells do not spread through the body as readily. This leads to better survival outcomes.

As such, the team is keen to investigate whether the genes that predispose sarcoma cells to reduced mobility can be targeted by future treatments.

Study leader Herbert Levine, co-director of Rice University's Center for Theoretical Biological Physics, said: "We want to understand how those factors either help or prevent cells from going through the phenotypic transitions we think are important for cancer metastasis."

Posted by Jeanette Royston


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