Cancer squeezes through the gaps

Cancer cells move around the body (become metastatic) by chopping up the dense matrix that surrounds them. But drugs that prevent the chopping have been disappointing in animal and human anti-cancer trials. Now researchers provide an explanation for this failure: the drug-treated cells revert to a primordial, ameboid form of cell movement that allows them to squeeze through gaps in the matrix. From the Rockefeller University Press
:Cancer squeezes through the gaps

Cancer cells move around the body (become metastatic) by chopping up the dense matrix that surrounds them. But drugs that prevent the chopping have been disappointing in animal and human anti-cancer trials. Now researchers provide an explanation for this failure: the drug-treated cells revert to a primordial, ameboid form of cell movement that allows them to squeeze through gaps in the matrix.

Peter Friedl (University of Wuerzburg, Germany) and colleagues report in the January 20 issue of The Journal of Cell Biology that cancer cells moving through a protein matrix leave a path of destruction behind them. But when that destruction is prevented, the cells still move at a rapid rate by reverting to a more rounded, ameboid shape that is distorted as the cells squeeze through any available gaps.

This type of migration could serve as a “salvage” pathway, allowing tumor cells to take a step backward in evolutionary time to continue migrating in the presence of inhibitors. Drugs that attack both migration pathways should have a better chance of being effective against the spread of cancer.

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