Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Space Invaders
28 August 2014

Space Invaders

Cancer starts when our own cells start growing out of control, forming a tumour. If detected early and removed with surgery, the chances of survival are usually good. But if cancer cells go on the move, invading the tissue around them and spreading through the body, it can be much harder to treat effectively. To understand how cancer cells spread, researchers are putting them through their paces in 'obstacle courses' like the one shown here – a labyrinth of microscopic pillars (black dots) which the blue, green and red-stained cancer cells have to navigate around. The green cells like to stick together, moving slowly as a group. While the red cells, which have different molecular characteristics prefer to go it alone. Figuring out how cells switch between these behaviours could reveal new ways of preventing cancer from spreading and treating it more effectively.

Written by Kat Arney

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