Scientists track “live” spread of breast cancer cells

Scientists have tracked the spread of breast-cancer cells “live” for the first time in an advance which it is hoped will lead to new cures.

The team tagged cancer cells with a protein that glowed blue. They showed that the protein, called Transforming Growth Factor beta, triggers the release of cancer cells from the main tumour. Once free, these cells pass into the bloodstream and move into bones or other organs like the liver and the brain – which can prove fatal.

Study leader Dr Erik Sahai, from the charity Cancer Research UK, said: “The results helped us to find the set of genes behind the spread of breast cancer – and that the genes need to be first turned on and then off in order for single cancer cells to be able to “relocate”.”

The findings are published in the journal Nature Cell Biology and are being presented to the American Society for Cell Biology. Previous research showed TGFb can regulate normal cell growth and movement. In the new study, cells were observed as, one by one, they broke away and entered the blood circulation. When TGFb wasn’t active, clumps of cancer cells broke away instead of single ones. These clumps were able to pass through the lymphatic system, but not blood vessels. As a result, the spread of the cancer remained local.

Source: Daily Express