If cancer spreads from its original location to other parts of the body – a process called metastasis – the prognosis for the patient dramatically deteriorates. One of the first destinations for migrating cancer cells is the nearest lymph gland, and evidence suggests that tumours actually induce lymph vessels to sprout new branches towards them, helping the cancer cells escape. To search for the molecules that control such sprouting, and ways to stop it, scientists grow lymph cells (labelled red and green) on spherical beads (pictured) and observe the promotion or inhibition of branching limbs. Using this approach to screen a large number of chemicals, researchers discovered that cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins are potent inhibitors of lymph vessel sprouting. This suggests that not only are statins good for the blood, but they may possess a bonus metastasis-mitigating effect.
Written by Ruth Williams
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