Cancer cells switch mobility on and off says research

In collaboration with the Press Association

Highly-aggressive, spreading cancer cells are able to switch between being mobile and settling in a new area of the body, laboratory research has suggested.

Previously it had been thought that spreading - or metastatic - cancer cells were a distinct and separate kind of cell, said lead researcher professor Mariano Garcia-Blanco.

But now it appears that invasive cells are able to switch back and forth as their surroundings dictate.

"Understanding this 'toggle' switch might ultimately enable scientists to find ways to stop cells from metastasizing, which is the most deadly trait of cancer," he added.

The researchers termed the resting state 'epithial', after its similarity to the cells that line body's exterior surfaces.

They dubbed the more mobile state 'mesenchymal', because it resembled blood vessel cells and other more mobile cell types found in the body.

The study, by the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Centre, was carried out in rats.

Further research could lead to a method to prevent the cells from switching to a mesenchymal state, the research team said.

The report is published in the Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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