How cancer cells avoid death

Updated: Jun 22, 2013, 10:19 AM IST

Washington: Researchers have got an important new insight about how cancer cells are able to avoid the cell death process.

The findings may also suggest a chemotherapeutic approach to prevent the spread of cancers.

According to Zachary T. Schafer, Coleman Assistant Professor of Cancer Biology at Notre Dame, metastasis, the spread of cancer from one organ to other parts of the body, relies on cancer cells ability to evade a cell death process called anoikis.

Metalizing cancer cells are able to survive anoikis, which normally results from detachment from the extracellular matrix.

However, Schafer noted that the molecular mechanisms cancer cells detached from the extracellular matrix use to survive has not been well understood.

Schafer said that their findings revealed that cancer cells that are detached from their normal environment, as they would be during metastasis, relay on the activity of antioxidant enzymes to facilitate their survival.

He said that this class of enzymes is critical for neutralizing oxidative stress and function much like the compounds that are present in a variety of foods.

The paper also describes a prominent role for antioxidant enzymes in facilitating the survival of breast cancer cells after detachment from the extracellular matrix.

Conversely, the researchers report, silencing antioxidant enzyme expression reduced tumour formation.

The findings have been published in the journal Cancer Research .