Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Transition Transmission

Role of cancer cells on the spectrum of reversible change called epithelial-mesenchymal transition in tumour spread

30 December 2021

Transition Transmission

In any big endeavour there’s a point of no return, when you’ve gone too far to go back. A new study has revealed an important such moment for tumours. Cancer cells can undergo a metamorphosis called EMT (the epithelial-mesenchymal transition) that appears to affect their capacity to spread around the body. Researchers observed breast cancer tumours in mice (pictured, pink), and highlighted cells that had only partially completed EMT (green), leaving the tumour. These cells, which maintain the flexibility to revert back to their original state, were essential for the formation of secondary tumour growth in the lungs. This spreading, or metastasis, is often the most lethal part of cancer, and when partial EMT cells were eliminated, the process was halted. Both full and partial EMT cells were also involved in the tumour developing resistance to treatments over time, so preventing this transition could help keep cancer under control.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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