The biggest challenge for oncologists and researchers is metastasis or the spread of cancerous cells. The National Cancer Society claims that’s 90% of cancer related deaths are in fact due to metastasis. Understanding the intricacies and patterns of the spread of cancer is therefore vital to improving cancer treatment standards.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins published a study in Nature Communications detailing their findings on cancer cell metastasis. Lead researcher Hasini Jayatilaka stated, “We found that it was not the overall size of a primary tumor that caused cancer cells to spread, but how tightly those cells are jammed together when they break away from the tumor. At a fundamental level, we found that cell density is very important in triggering metastasis.”
The researchers then constructed an experiment to help inhibit metastasis. In the study tumors were treated with two drugs - one approved for treating arthritis and the other being tested for breast cancer treatment. While this drug combination failed to stop the growth of the primary tumor it did significantly limit the spread of the cancer. Jayatilaka stated, “We discovered a new signaling pathway that, when blocked, could potentially curb cancer’s ability to metastasize.”
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