Researchers have found links between cancer cells’ collective migration and metastasis, and identified the specific protein that triggers the process, the Academia Sinica Genomics Research Center said on Tuesday last week.
Medical scientists are interested in understanding the sub-processes of metastasis for their pivotal impact on cancer outcomes, the center said in a news statement.
The study, entitled “Snail-Induced Claudin-11 Prompts Collective Migration for Tumour Progression,” was in January published by the journal Nature Cell Biology, the center added.
Photo courtesy of Academia Sinica
Taipei Veterans General Hospital oncologist Yang Muh-hwa (楊慕華), an associate research fellow at the center, said he began to suspect a link between cancer cell clusters and metastasis after biopsies showed that clusters tend to form near invading epithelial tumors.
To conduct the study, he reached out to research fellow Chang Ying-chih (張瑛芝), who invented CellMax Life, a patented cancer cell capture platform capable of remarkably accurate cancer cell counts in blood, Yang said.
Equipped with the platform, the two headed a research team to study head and neck cancer in laboratory mice and humans, he said.
After four years of research, the team concluded that collective cell migration is indeed linked to the spread of tumors, he added.
Additionally, the team found that protein claudin-11, induced by zinc-finger transcription factors, which scientists call “snail,” plays a crucial role in starting collective cell migration, Yang said.
Using CellMax Life, doctors can detect collectively migrating cancer cells in a blood sample as little as 2cm3, giving advance warning that the cancer is metastasizing in the lungs, he said.
The study has yielded tangible medical benefits and many researchers involved in the effort are working in the medical equipment industry, he said.
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