Cancer cells rapidly replicate allowing them to spread throughout the human body. Recent research suggests, however, that healthy cells nearby need to send them ‘messages’ to facilitate their invasion. Scientists are trying to find ways to ‘edit’ these messages to prevent tumour spread. Retinoblastoma (Rb) protein is well known to protect against cancer: low Rb is a hallmark of tumorous tissue. Recently scientists decided to explore its role in the healthy tissue surrounding a tumour (cancerous areas here marked by dotted lines). The team – working specifically on cervical and throat cancer – found inactivated Rb (stained green) more frequently in healthy tissue around tumours (left) than in disease-free samples. They believe this provides a ‘gateway’ for cancer to spread. Therapeutic strategies tend to focus on the cancer itself, but this research suggests that therapy might also target healthy cells to stop cancer spreading.
Written by Brona McVittie
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