LivingThey reveal the true origin of metastases

They reveal the true origin of metastases

Metastasis is not produced by a genetic mutation but by a reprogramming of tumor cells that makes them behave like stem cells and regenerate what they should not, that is, the tumor, in a different area of the body. This is the conclusion reached by the Spanish oncologist Joan Massagué and his team from the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York (SKI) in a study that has just been published in the journal Nature Cancer .

“Now we understand metastasis as the regeneration of the wrong tissue – the tumor – in the wrong place, distant vital organs,” says Joan Massagué.

Although a few years ago it was thought that cancer cells could use wound healing pathways to grow, it is now, with the research carried out by the Spanish oncologist and his team, that exactly how this process works has been seen.

The metastasis process works as follows: Cancer cells must separate from neighboring cells, be able to reach the blood or lymphatic system, leave them, and establish themselves in a new location in the body. Although metastasis is responsible for 90% of cancer deaths, the travel of a cancer cell to another part of the body is not an easy task. Of course, when they manage to get there, it is very difficult to get rid of them, says Karuna Ganesh, a physician-scientist from SKI’s Molecular Pharmacology Program and one of the authors of the article. “They are a completely different entity from the tumor in which they started.”

And how do some cancer cells successfully reach another area of the body? The team of researchers focused on a molecule called L1CAM , as previous studies carried out in Massagué’s laboratory had shown that it is necessary for some cancer cells to metastasize. Normal healthy tissues do not usually produce this molecule, but it does occur in advanced cancers.

After observing human tumor tissues under a microscope, the scientists realized that the body generated L1CAM when a wound occurred , perhaps to repair it, since it favors adhesion between cells and allows wound sealing, as happens in the intestine after colitis. They used a mouse model of colitis and found that this was indeed the case.

This discovery about metastasis helps to better understand the mechanisms of cancer as well and opens the door to the investigation of new treatments that can fight the disease .


Referencias: Ganesh, K., Basnet, H., Kaygusuz, Y. et al. L1CAM defines the regenerative origin of metastasis-initiating cells in colorectal cancer. Nat Cancer 1, 28–45 (2020) doi:10.1038/s43018-019-0006-x y EFE.

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