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Information for this article was provided by EurekAlert!

Tumor cells that border normal tissue are told to leave

The thin, single-cell boundary where a tumor meets normal tissue is the most dangerous part of a cancer according to a new study by scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The researchers found that tumor cells bordering normal tissue receive signals that tell them to wander away from the tumor, allowing the cancer cells to establish deadly metastatic tumors elsewhere in the body.

The researchers say their discovery demonstrates the importance of the tumor's environment and shows more precisely how the metastatic process occurs and might be stopped. Their study appears in the January 10 issue of Developmental Cell.

"What actually kills in cancer is not the primary tumor--it's metastasis," says senior author Ross L. Cagan, Ph.D., associate professor of molecular biology and pharmacology and a researcher with the Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital. "You can't study that in a laboratory dish. You have to look at the tumor cells in their natural environment--surrounded by normal tissues."