For a cancer to spread through other organs, tumoral cells undergo a process known as epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) that turns cells into mobile and invasive, and they begin to travel through the bloodstream. However, in order to re-anchor to a new organ or tissue, cells must recover their initial characteristics to lose their mobility.
Led by the National Research Council, researchers at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM), Instituto de Investigaciones Biomedicas „Alberto Sols“, participate in a study on new mechanisms of metastasis. This study describes a new component, the Prrx1, whose presence in primary tumors can prevent generation of metastasis.
Blocking The ETM In an Early Stage
Researchers have found that the transition from mobile to stationary cancer cells involves the loss of its Prrx1 component. Although this component is one of the factors favoring the initial spread of cancer cells and their arrival to other organs, it needs to be shut down so that these cells are grouped to form other tumors.
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Therefore, tumors with high amounts of Prrx1 have better prognosis given that they cannot produce metastases. Oscar Ocaña, researcher at the Neurosciences Institute, believes that „the therapeutic strategy of blocking the EMT to prevent the spread of tumors, would only be effective if it happens before the first cancer cells has detached from the primary tumor, which usually occurs in very early stages of the disease and usually before having the diagnosis“. In fact, blocking the EMT in these conditions favors the appearance of new tumors. However, the research also shows that a strategy oriented to attack other properties in cancer cells, would actually work against metastasis.
The results, recently published in Cancer Cell, were found thanks to the study of animal models such as: chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus), zebra fish (Danio rerio), and mice (Mus musculus), and also patients samples.