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Research finds cancer cells spread even before tumour development

Published on 10/01/17 at 10:40am

Studies at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York City and the University of Regensburg in Germany have found that cancer cells can spread to organs even before tumours have developed, challenging accepted knowledge about the disease.

After spreading, the cells remain inactive before forming aggressive metastasis which can prove fatal. For the first time, the two new studies have identified  the function by which cancer cells spread, which could help to shed light on how effective targeted drug treatments and early detection such as MRI fail; while these methods kill the original tumour, cells which had spread before the tumour had formed would escape these treatments.

It is also noted that in those suffering from cancer, 5% of patients have metastases with no original tumour.

“Biologically, this new model of early metastasis challenges everything we thought we knew about how cancer spreads and forms metastasis,” said Dr Julio Aguirre-Ghiso, lead author on the study at the Icahn School of Medicine.

The new discovery was found in research on breast cancer, though the findings can be extrapolated to other cancers including melanoma and pancreatic cancer. Accounting for 90% of cancer fatalities, metastases occur when cancer cells move from an original tumour to a separate site through the blood or lymph system to form new tumours.

This exciting new find is not the only breakthrough in cancer study this month, as the Institute of Cancer Research last week revealed new findings on mechanisms by which cancer cells move and spread throughout the body.

Matt Fellows

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