16 December 2010

Cancer: Defective Cell Surface 'Glue' Is Key to Tumor Invasion

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A remarkable discovery into how tumour cells invade normal tissue should lead to vital diagnostic tools and help develop strategies to stop the spread of cancer cells

A new study by scientists at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital of McGill University reveals that the surface of aggressive tumour cells lack the strong molecular 'glue' responsible for binding normal cells together. This allows tumour cells to break away, detach from their neighbors, and spread to other regions of the body.

Certain proteins, called cadherins, are located on the surface of cells and play a vital role in cell adhesion or 'gluing' cells together, ensuring the proper organization of tissue. What happens to the cells and the 'glue' that binds them in tumour growth and metastases is poorly understood. "We were concerned that previous research showed that N-cadherin, an adhesive molecule, was important for both normal tissue organization, as well as tumour metastasis," says Dr. David Colman, Director of The Neuro and corresponding author of the study. "We therefore decided to further investigate this apparent paradox."

The team studied the levels of N-cadherin on tumour cell surfaces. "Our study shows that a non-adhesive form of N-cadherin, termed proNcad is present in a much higher proportion on the surfaces of the most invasive melanoma, brain tumour cells, breast cancer and prostate tumour cells, compared to less invasive tumour cells." says Dr. Deborah Maret, research associate and lead author. This non-adhesive form of N-cadherin never reaches the cell surface in normal tissues.

(ScienceDaily)

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