A breakthrough in understanding how cancer spreads could lead to better treatments, according to experts.
Scientists have discovered that cancer cells ‘hijack’ a process used by healthy cells to spread around the body, completely changing current ways of thinking about cancer.
But some may be able to stick to platelets – clotting ingredients – to form clumps which, if stuck in the blood vessel, might buy time for the cancer cell to travel out of the blood and into the body.
They also discovered that when they removed the protein from mice without cancer, this caused their healthy cells to leave their original tissue and travel around the body where they joined other organs.
This suggests that metastasis isn’t an abnormal process limited to cancer as previously thought, but is a normal process used by healthy cells that has been exploited by cancers to migrate to other parts of the body.
‘Not only have we identified one of the elusive drivers of metastasis, but we have also turned a commonly held understanding of this on its head, showing how cancer hijacks processes in healthy cells for its own gains.
‘If validated through further research, this could have far-reaching implications for how we prevent cancer from spreading and allow us to manipulate this process to repair damaged organs.’
Lead researcher on the study and senior research associate at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, Dr Eric Rahrmann, said: ‘We are incredibly excited to have identified a single protein that regulates not only how cancer spreads through the body, independent of tumour growth, but also normal tissue cell shedding and repair