The discovery of a type of breast cancer cell that leads the invasion of tumours into neighbouring tissue could provide a target for new therapies. In this picture of a breast tumour (stained blue) in a laboratory mouse, these ‘leader cells’ (green) are invading muscle tissue (red). If conditions are right, they will prepare the way for other types of cancer cell to follow, causing metastasis, the formation of new tumours. Scientists found that almost all of the leader cells contained a protein, cytokeratin 14, which is very rare in non-invasive parts of the tumour. They also discovered that tumours in mice genetically engineered to lack this protein did not invade surrounding tissue. If leader cells in human tumours could be destroyed or disabled, perhaps by switching off the gene that codes for cytokeratin 14, it may prevent or slow down the spread of breast cancer.
Written by Mick Warwicker
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