Flightless molecule can prevent cancer from spreading

Toronto: Scientists have discovered that a molecule called flightless can control the speed with which cells move through various tissues, paving the way for treatments to stop spread of cancer from one tissue to another.

Researchers from the University of Toronto found that "flightless" molecule named after its effects on fruit flies increases the "stickiness" that causes cells, including cancer cells, to attach to underlying tissue, which in turn, slows their movement throughout the body.

"The study of flightless and its role in the control of cell movement offers the promise of developing new drugs and treatments to control diseases in which cell movement has gotten out of control," Christopher A McCulloch, from the University said.

"We hope that one day treatments to regulate cell movement could be used to bring under better control the spread of cancer cells from a tumour into the rest of the body," McCulloch said in a statement.

Scientists used three groups of cells that made either normal amounts of flightless, or were genetically modified to produce no flightless, or to make above-normal amounts of flightless.

Researchers then studied the rate of movement of these different groups of cells and examined the specialised parts of cells that enable them to stick to tissues.

When the stickiness of the cells to underlying tissues was examined, results showed that flightless had a marked effect on how quickly cells could detach from underlying tissues and move forward in response to stimuli that encourage them to migrate.

The study was published in the FASEB Journal.