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Thursday, 17 December 2015

Blocking the metastasis channel to prevent cancer

Most of the cancer related deaths are due to metastasis, i.e. the spread of cancer from one part of the body to other. The phenomenon of metastasis have been studied for years but little been identified about how cancer migrates from primary site. A new research carried out by Harvard affiliated Brigham and Women’s hospital (BWH) where they identified how cancer cells extend their reach, which they named as “metastatic highjacking”. The research was published recently in Nature communications.

Cancer cells invading a blood vessel are seen on the left. In the image on the right, a metastatic cancer cell forms nanoscale bridges with endothelial cells lining blood vessels and injects miRNA through these nanobridges to control the endothelial cells. (Source: Harvard Gazette/ Shiladitya Sengupta)

Shiladitya Sengupta, the corresponding author had been studying the cancer cell communication for past five years and tried to investigate the cell to cell communication as the key model. Associated researcher, Elazer Edelman with Sengupta started off with simple experiment. They constructed a 3D tumour matrix with complete endothelial cells, and to it added metastatic breast cancer cells. The observation was dismayed them as metastatic breast cancer cells instead of forming a sphere by adhering together, they spread out along the model’s blood vessels. While observing under scanning electron microscope they found long, thin tubes extending outward from the cells connecting the normal cells by cancer cells. Due to this the molecular profiles of these normal cells changed, and they hypothesized that these changes are due to transfer of microRNAs through the nanoscale bridges. On further closer observation, they found that in transformed endothelial cells contain two microRNAs which is responsible for metastasis.

Researchers then targeted the nanoscale bridges with chemical compounds to prevent cell to cell communication between normal endothelial cells and the cancer cells. They did both in laboratory constructed model and also in mouse model, where pharmacological agents including docetaxel (used to treat metastasis breast cancer) decreased the nanoscale bridges. In mice pretreated with pharmacological agents did show significant decrease of metastatic tumour syndromes.

Further Reading and Journal source: Nature communication
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