The survey of the Institute of Neurosciences, joint center of the University Miguel Hernández (UMH) and the National Research Council (CSIC), has found that the cellular component Prrx1 prevents cancer cells to lodge in other organs and, therefore, generate new foci of cancer.
Metastasis is the cause of more than 90% of cancer deaths. The cancer cells break away from the original tumor and spread through the body anchoring to other organs and form new tumors called metastases. For a focus of cancer spread to other organs, your cells undergo a process known as epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT, for its acronym in English) which is due to become mobile and invasive, and begin traveling through the bloodstream. However, to re-anchor to a new organ or tissue should recover their initial characteristics, i.e. lose mobility.
Research has found that the transition from mobile to stationary cancer cells involves the loss of its component Prrx1. The Neurosciences Institute investigator Angela Nieto, who led the study, explains that "although this component is one of the factors favoring the initial spread of cancer cells and their arrival to other organs, it is necessary to turn off these cells as they are grouped together to form other tumors."
Tumors with high amounts of Prrx1 are therefore better for the prognosis and cannot form metastases. The researcher Oscar Ocaña, Neurosciences Institute, believes that "the therapeutic strategy of blocking the EMT to prevent the spread of tumors would only be effective if done before the first cancer cells detach from the primary tumor, which usually occurs in stages very early in the disease and usually before receiving the diagnosis." In fact, Nieto added, "blocking the EMT in these conditions favor the appearance of new tumors." However, the research also shows that a strategy to attack other properties of cancer cells, it would work against metastasis.
The results have been obtained by studying various animal models: chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus), zebrafish (Danio rerio), and mouse (Mus musculus), and analysis of patient samples. Research has had the participation of researchers from the Institute of Biomedical Research "Alberto Sols" (joint CSIC and Universidad Autonoma de Madrid), the Biomedical Research Institute of Bellvitge, and the MD Anderson Foundation International.
Illustration: Researchers discover that the cellular component Prrx1 prevents cancer cells from lodging in other organs and, therefore, generating new focuses of cancer. –Asociación RUVID.
Asociación RUVID News Release (11/30/12)
Science Daily (12/03/12)
Abstract (Cancer Cell; Vol. 22, Issue 6, 709-724 (11/29/12))