Clues to the spread of cancer `discovered`

Last Updated: Oct 11, 2010, 00:00 AM IST

Washington: In what may pave the way for more effective treatments for some of most aggressive cancers, scientists claim to have discovered vital clues to the spread
of the disease in the body.

An international team, led by University of New South Wales, has found that cancer cells are accompanied by growth- enabling stromal cells when they travel in the bloodstream to new sites in the body.

The finding challenges the belief that metastasis is the sole preserve of cancer cells and has implications for all solid tumours, say the scientists.

In fact, the team found that "enabling" pancreatic stellate cells from primary tumours have the ability to invade blood vessels to travel via the bloodstream to distant sites,
where they create a hospitable environment for cancer cells to seed and grow, the `American Journal of Pathology` reported.

"It`s always been presumed that only cancer cells travel in metastasis. But we`ve shown for the first time that stellate cells also travel in tandem with the cancer cells.

"It`s like the cancer brings its own luggage with it - the stellate cells - allowing it to settle in a new place more comfortably and more quickly," said the study`s lead author
Prof Minoti Apte.

In the study, the scientists used a gender mismatch approach to investigate whether these enabling cells could migrate. Female mice were injected in the pancreas with a
female cancer cell line and male pancreatic stellate cells.

After seven weeks, metastatic nodules in all mice showed the presence of Y chromosome-positive male cells.

"These could only have come from the original tumour and the male pancreatic stellate cells. The challenge now is to stop PSCs from aiding and abetting pancreatic cancer cells
-- not only in the primary tumour site but also to prevent or diminish cancer growth in distant sites," Apte said.

PTI