Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

In 2017 we celebrated five years of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science

17 April 2018

Break Through

Cancer is at its most deadly when it gets itchy feet. As it spreads around the body (a process called metastasis), it becomes increasingly unmanageable. To leave one tissue, a cancer cell must break through the protective basement membrane that lines the edges like a city wall. They test for weak spots by prodding out microscopic battering rams called invadopodia. Eventually, these make a small hole in the wall, but how the cells then exploit this tiny gap was unclear. By directly filming a single cell over several hours, new research has identified a second protrusion (shown briefly spurting from a cell) that squeezes into the hole, then swells to enlarge the gap sufficiently. It turns out this fleeting bulge is prompted by a chemical cue called netrin, which is common in metastasising cancers. Figuring out how to block netrin just might help keep cancer in its place.

Written by Anthony Lewis

Search The Archive

Submit An Image

What is BPoD?

BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

Read More