Metastasis, or the the spread of cancer to other parts of the body, is common in many advanced cancers. The cancer can break off and travel to form new invasive tumours.
In the latest edition of Molecular Cell, UK scientists have reported on new research showing that they have potentially discovered a vital clue to stopping cancers spreading.
In the article, a protein called Tes is able to block a second protein, Mena, from helping cancer cells escape from the initial tumour. It is possible that his knowledge may help in the design of new drug treatments to ensure that a tumour is kept in
one place, thereby preventing deadly metastasis from occurring.
The Mena protein is found in excessive amounts in tumours and was already known to help cancer cells move away from a tumour and spread around the body to form secondary cancers.
Tes is not as well studied, but is absent in many tumours.
X-ray crystallography, is one of a range of techniques that can be used to determine the 3-dimensional structure of a molecule. The researchers found that Tes
attached itself to Mena in such a way it could no longer bind with
Without being able to interact with its normal binding
partners, Mena was no longer able to help the cancer cells migrate from
Although Mena is a very small part of the spread of cancer cells, it is one of the key control mechanisms that goes wrong in cancer.
In the future, this knowledge about the interaction between Tes and Mena and other similar mechanisms will increase our knowledge about this
protein, and hopefully help us to develop more effective cancer
treatments for metastasis and advanced cancer.
Since this research was originally published, the co-mingling of three cell types can predict whether localized breast cancer will spread throughout the body. The spread occurs only when a specific trio of cells are present together in the same microanatomic site: an endothelial cell (a type of cell that lines the blood vessels), a perivascular macrophage (a type of immune cell found near blood vessels), and a tumor cell that produces Mena. A site with these three cells constitutes what is known as a tumour microenvironment of metastasis, or TMEM.
A biomarker for metastasis, based on TMEM, has now been developed that may help doctors precisely identify which patients with breast cancer should receive aggressive therapy. This might spare many women at low risk for metastatic disease from undergoing unnecessary treatment and help those who most need a different treatment approach.}
Robinson, B., Sica, G., Liu, Y., Rohan, T., Gertler, F., Condeelis, J., & Jones, J. (2009). Tumor Microenvironment of Metastasis in Human Breast Carcinoma: A Potential Prognostic Marker Linked to Hematogenous Dissemination Clinical Cancer Research, 15 (7), 2433-2441 DOI: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-08-2179