Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Motorways for Metastasis
12 May 2016

Motorways for Metastasis

Metastasis, or the spread of cancer cells from the original tumour to a different organ, is the deadliest scenario for cancer patients, so understanding this process is a priority for medical science. In an exciting breakthrough, a team of researchers has identified a protein, dubbed Mena, which is instrumental in organising the cell migration involved in metastasis. A specific form of the protein, known as MenaINV, allows cancer cells (pictured in green), to re-arrange protein fibres such as collagen (in blue), facilitating their access to blood vessels (in red). For breast cancer patients at least, the presence of MenaINV in tumour cells, rather than the typical form of Mena, is associated with metastasis and earlier mortality, further highlighting the importance of this protein. More research into MenaINV could help develop means of assessing the potential for invasiveness of individual tumours, or even of blocking metastasis altogether.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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