Cancer is caused by an uncontrolled multiplication of cells. Cancer cells are rogue cells which obey no rules. If they obey some, it will be their own rules. In many instances it is the spread of cancer into other sites which proves to be fatal.
A Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine study supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.and the American Heart Association.has revealed details of the complex molecular process involving a protein that enables cancer cells to establish tumors in distant parts of the body.
This finding which is published in the March 16 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry,may lead the way to new drugs to prevent breast cancer and other cancers from spreading to new sites.
Researchers found a molecule called CXCR4 on the surface of cells .They discovered that there is an abnormal abundance of this molecule in 23 types of cancer, including cancers of the breast, lung, pancreas and thyroid.
A cancer cell breaks away from the primary site and circulates through the body. A molecule called CXCL12 acts like a beacon to CXCR4, signaling the cancer cell to land and start a new tumor.
The goal of the study was to better understand this complex signaling pathway. (A signaling pathway involves a group of molecules that work together in a cell. After the first molecule in the pathway receives a signal, it activates another molecule, and the process is repeated until the last molecule is activated.)
Marchese and colleagues used a line of human cancer cells called HeLa and identified a molecule that is a critical link in the signaling pathway. They hope to target this molecule, thereby disabling the signaling pathway and preventing the cancer cell from setting up shop in a new site..
They may have to develop a drug that blocks the target molecule. Researchers then would test the drug on an animal model. If the drug worked in animals, it could be tested in a clinical trial of cancer patients, .
Marchese is an associate professor in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Therapeutics of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. His co-authors are Rohit Malik, PhD (first author), Unice J.K. Soh, PhD, and JoAnn Trejo, PhD.