Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Suspicious Packages

How packages of proteins from cancer cells interfere with their surroundings aiding growth

07 February 2020

Suspicious Packages

In the body, cells can communicate via gradual chemical signalling over time, or by packaging messages up into discrete bundles called vesicles – sometimes it’s useful to receive news in a conveniently packaged burst. Cancer cells can produce vesicles too, like the dividing skin cancer cells pictured firing out packages of fake news to corrupt and mislead surrounding cells. How these packages of propaganda impact other cells isn’t fully understood, so a new research study set out to investigate. They discovered that the vesicle contents interfere with the hedgehog signalling pathway – a common string of interactions crucial from early development, and throughout adulthood. The vesicles nudge the pathway to instigate uncontrolled growth and spread – hallmarks of cancer. However, just as cancer can co-opt vesicles, so can researchers, so there’s a chance we could use the system to step in and set the hedgehog pathway back on track.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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