The progression of cancer cells from one part of the body to another (“metastasis”) is one of the biggest problems in curing cancer, therefore this research brings new hope of future therapies to fight cancer. The discovery has been made by Dr Victoria Sanz-Moreno in the research team led by Professor Chris Marshall at The Institute of Cancer Research, in work funded by Cancer Research UK.
Professor Marshall says:
“The spreading of cancer cells from one part of the body to another, called metastasis, is one of the biggest causes of death from cancer. By explaining a key part of that process, our research brings new hope for future therapies to fight cancer.
“The research has found the constant competition between two proteins called ‘Rac’ and ‘Rho’ is responsible for allowing the cancer cells to change shape and spread through the body.
“We have shown that cells from melanoma (an aggressive type of skin cancer) are able to rapidly alternate between two different forms of movement where cells have either a round shape or a more stretchy “elongated” shape.
“Together with Dr Erik Sahai and Dr Sophie Pinner at the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute we have been able to see cells in live tumours carrying out these different forms of movement. These alternate shapes and ways of moving may enable tumour cells to deal with different situations during cancer spread. For example, tests indicated that a round shaped tumour cell may have more durability to survive in our bloodstream than elongated shaped tumour cells.”
The Rac process involves a protein called NEDD9, (which has previously been shown to be involved in melanoma metastasis) activating Rac through another protein called DOCK3. This Rac activity serves a dual purpose, both encouraging the cell to become elongated and simultaneously suppressing the competing Rho activity. Conversely, when cells adopt the round form a protein activated by Rho, called ARHGAP22, switches off Rac activation.
Dr Victoria Sanz-Moreno says: “Until now the conversion between different types of movement of individual cancer cells had been observed but the key players had not been identified. We are excited to discover that the amount and the activity of these proteins in the tumour cell regulates its shape and the mechanism for it to move and invade surrounding tissue. We hope these insights can be used to help develop future therapies”.
Dr Lesley Walker, Cancer Research UK director of cancer information, said: "Successful treatment tends to be much more difficult if the cancer has spread. This exciting study has shed light on some of the key molecules involved in the signalling pathways that encourage cells to move around the body. Knowing more about how cancer spreads will hopefully lead to the identification of new drug targets which will enable scientists to develop anti-cancer drugs to block these pathways."
Melanoma cells were being studied in this research and their behaviour is also expected to occur in many other types of cancer. Melanomas are a major target for cancer therapies because although they are the least common, they are the most serious type of skin cancer. There are about 160,000 new cases of melanoma worldwide each year, including the rarer types that affect the bowel or eye rather than the skin (2).
(1) "Rac activation and inactivation control plasticity of tumor cell movement". Copies of this paper in Cell are available upon request. It will appear in the print issue of Cell on 31 October 2008.
(2) Ries LAG, et al, eds. SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2000. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute; 2003: Tables XVI-1-9.
Cathy Beveridge | alfa
Single-stranded DNA and RNA origami go live
15.12.2017 | Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard
New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists
15.12.2017 | Louisiana State University
DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.
Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...
MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.
Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...
Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...
Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences
15.12.2017 | Life Sciences