A team at the University College London may have discovered how cancer spreads.
The University College London have been running experiments with the use of frog and zebra fish embryos in order to try and track how exactly cancer spread in hopes that they may be able to stop the dieses in its tracks.
There have been many research efforts in the area of cancer ranging from research that aims to keep melanoma from spreading to a possible link between skin cancer and reduced Alzheimer’s disease risk.
While the team of scientists haven’t yet identified an actual cause for cancer, according to The Telegraph,
Scientists identified a mechanism, which is called “chase and run,” which showed how diseased and healthy cells follow each other around the body.
“Nobody knew how this happened, and now we believe we have uncovered it.
“If that is the case it will be relatively easy to develop drugs that interfere with this interaction,” said Prof Roberto Mayor, who led the team.
This research could possibly provide a vital clue to mechanisms which enable cancer to spread.
The group of scientists said that the key [to the research] was to understand why cancerous cells attach themselves to healthy cells in the first place.
So how did they go about doing this? They mimicked what they believe happens by using comparable types of cells and observing their behavior.
The Telegraphreported that “the role of the cancer cell was taken by neural crest cell, a common form of stem cell which eventually forms animal tissue.
“Meanwhile the placode cells, which eventually form part of the cranial nerve, performed the part of the healthy cell.
“The experiment showed that placodes not only attracted the neural cells but were followed by them as they tried to escape.”
The scientists said that the findings suggest an alternative way in which cancer treatments might work in the future.
The goal would be then to target treatments towards the interaction between malignant and healthy cells, which would then work to stop cancer cells from spreading and causing secondary tumors.
“Most cancer deaths are not due to the formation of the primary tumor, instead people die from secondary tumors originating from the first malignant cells, which are able to travel and colonize vital organs of the body such as the lungs or the brain.” said the report which was published in Nature Cell Biology.
What Scientists Say
Eric Theveneau, another member of the team, added: “The next step would entail medical researchers be using their findings to gain a better understanding of how cancer cells behave.”
According to The Telegraph, Dr Kat Arney, science information manager at Cancer Research UK, welcomed the findings but advised caution.
“This research helps to reveal some of the fundamental biological processes that might be at work as cells move around the body, but the scientists have only looked at developing frog and zebrafish embryos rather than specifically looking at cancer cells.
“So there’s a very long way to go to see whether this knowledge can be translated into new treatments for cancer patients.”
So while these findings are very promising, there is much more research that needs to be done in this area before scientists can promise any new treatments for patients.
But even though there is more work to be done, the fact that scientists may have discovered how cancer spreads is a step in the right direction.
[Image via Shutterstock/Andrii Kondiuk ]