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Breakthrough in cancer research
In many cancers, such as breast cancer, metastasis is the greatest danger for those affected. In more than 90 percent of cancer-related deaths, metastases are responsible for the serious course of the disease. According to the current state of medicine, they are considered almost incurable. A Swiss research team recently discovered an active ingredient that prevents tumor cells from forming metastases.
Researchers from the University and the University Hospital Basel recently discovered a new active ingredient in a study that can suppress metastasis in cancer. The team published the research results in the renowned journal “Cell”.
What are metastases and how do they arise?
Usually, every cell in the body belongs to a certain cell group, for example a heart cell remains a heart cell and a liver cell remains a liver cell. However, tumor cells can exceed these limits by detaching cells from the cell structure and migrating in the blood or lymphatic system. This is how they get to other tissue associations, where in the worst case they settle and form daughter tumors - the so-called metastases.
Reduce the deadly potential of cancer
The Swiss research team took an interdisciplinary approach in which microbiologists, doctors and bioinformaticians worked hand in hand. In this way, they were able to identify a substance that prevents cancer cell groups from forming further daughter tumors. "We didn't want to follow the standard approach and look for active substances that kill cancer cells," explains Professor Dr. Nicola Aceto in a press release on the study results. Rather, the study was about identifying drugs that would inactivate the cell clusters that are responsible for the formation of metastases.
Cancer cells on the move
The new active substance targets the circulating tumor cells (CTCs), which separate from one tumor and can form new tumors in other tissues. According to the researchers, the CTCs could be traveling as single cells or as cell assemblies in the bloodstream and lymphatic system. The cancer experts report that the circulating tumor cell groups (CTC clusters) are primarily responsible for the formation of metastases.
When do CTC clusters form a daughter tumor?
As the Swiss research group reports, there is also a chemical change in the circulating cancer cells during the formation of the CTC cluster. This activates or deactivates certain genes in the cancer cells, which gives the cancer cells the properties of embryonic stem cells. Only through cluster formation would they be able to grow uncontrollably and produce different types of tissue. Individual circulating tumor cells do not have this ability.
Assembly ban for cancer cells
In their study, the researchers documented that these chemical changes can be completely reversed. They discovered an active ingredient that causes the circulating cell assemblies to separate again into individual cells, which means that they also lose the properties mentioned above. In total, the team searched in 2486 substances approved by the US drug agency FDA for a suitable active ingredient. In fact, the researchers found inhibitors that break up the CTC clusters and thus prevent metastasis. In the next step, the new treatment will be tested in a clinical study in breast cancer patients. (vb)