E-cadherin is a molecule involved in adhesion between epithelial cells that also seems to have a protective role in cancer, since its loss is associated with tumour progression and metastases formation in a series of different cancers. How this happens, however, is not clear but new research, about to be published on the "Journal of Experimental Cell Research", shows that cells that lose E-cadherin are more resistant to programmed cell death. Programmed cell death, also called apoptosis, is the mechanism by which the body eliminates unwanted or damaged cells, like those that can lead to cancer, by inducing them to die. The research about to be published also suggests that bcl-2 - a protein that affects cell division and whose abnormal production contributes to a variety of cancer - seems to have a role mediating E-cadherin effect. These results, although preliminary, help the understanding of E-cadherin role in cancer and consequently might contribute to the development of new therapeutics.
Cell survival depends on signals from the environment, such as those provided by adhesion molecules that mediate contacts between cells or between cells and the surrounding medium (the matrix). If these interactions cease to exist, the cells are programmed to die, which prevents their migration and growth in places where they do not belong, and consequently, where they have no physiological role. This is particularly important when we think about metastases - a process where cancer spreads to distant sites in the body to establish new tumours - which are associated with 90% of all the cancer deaths.
It is known that loss of adhesion between cells and between cells and the matrix is a pre-requisite for the detachment and migration of the tumour cells, and as a result it is believed that functional adhesion molecules are important in its prevention. One such example is E-cadherin, an adhesion molecule of epithelial cells, which is found altered in several cancers, and that, while intact, stops the tumour spreading into surrounding tissues. E-cadherin is especially interesting if we consider that 80-90% of tumours originate from epithelial cells, even if the majority of those result from accumulation of several mutations in several genes.
Catarina Amorim | alfa
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