Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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ICR Science and Medical Imaging Competition Eye on Cancer

Sticky molecule endosialin produced by cells surrounding tumours may aid cancer spread

26 April 2021

Eye on Cancer

Most cancer deaths are caused by the disease spreading around the body. This process, known as metastasis, happens when cancer cells break away from a tumour and get into the bloodstream. To find out more about how this happens, researchers are using cutting-edge microscopy techniques to spy on cancers as they develop over time. This eye-like image shows a breast tumour under the skin of a mouse, with new blood vessels (orange) growing into it. The tumour is also surrounded by cells called fibroblasts (green), which produce a sticky molecule called endosialin on their surface. Although the exact function of endosialin isn’t known, it’s thought to help breakaway cancer cells enter the newly-formed blood vessels and start spreading throughout the body. Because endosialin is produced in the very earliest stages of tumour growth, finding new drugs that stop it from working could prevent cancer from spreading in the first place.

Written by Kat Arney

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