These tumours have been implanted to grow on the nutritious membranes just inside the shell of a chicken’s egg, and offer many insights into the spread of human cancers. Two types of fluorescently-labelled cancer cell (red and green, seen together in yellow areas) are attempting to invade blood vessels in the chorioallantoic membrane and travel – a process known as metastasis. For the green-coloured cells this is easy – they were born in hypoxia, a reduced oxygen environment often seen at the core of a tumour, which makes cells more aggressive. The red cells are not hypoxic, and shouldn’t metastasise as easily, but surprisingly they follow the path of their green hypoxic neighbours into the bloodstream. Discovery of a partnership between cancer cells with different environmental experiences has implications not just for understanding metastasis, but also ultimately for the treatment of aggressive cancers, such as the paediatric cancer neuroblastoma.
Written by John Ankers
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