Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Playing Catch Up
15 December 2013

Playing Catch Up

Ever had that sense of trying to keep up with someone but never quite catching them? It’s a feeling that cancer cells are all too familiar with. During metastasis, cancer cells move around by detaching from the tumour’s original site and sticking to other healthy cells around the body. New research shows that cancer cells can gain this ability to roam by ‘chasing’ normal cells. Neural crest cells – embryonic cells that are normal but, like cancer cells, can migrate – and immature nerve cells were used as stand-ins for malignant and healthy cells, respectively. Rather like cats chasing an unravelling ball of string, the ‘cancer cells’ (shown as grey beads) are enticed by signals from the ‘molecular string’ the ‘healthy cells’ (red cluster) release. Once the ‘cancer cells’ start to catch up, the ‘healthy cells’ escape just in time. Blocking this interaction could be used as a possible future cancer therapy.

Written by Faiza Peeran

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