Miércoles 19 de Octubre de 2005, Ip nº 131

Survival trick of loose cancer cells
Breakaway breast cancer cells survive because they have the receptors for the chemokines that immune cells use to guide them to sites of infection.

Ninety per cent of people who die from breast or lung cancer do so because their primary tumour metastasises, which involves cancer cells breaking off and forming tumours elsewhere. But no one was quite sure how these cells managed to survive, until now. Marina Kochetkova and Shaun McColl of the University of Adelaide in Australia looked at receptors for chemokines, which direct white blood cells called leukocytes to sites of infection or inflammation.

They found that two chemokine receptors, CXCR4 and CCR7, were active on the surface of highly invasive, metastatic human breast cancer cells. And stimulating these receptors with chemokines kept metastatic cells alive for longer than cancer cells without chemokine receptors.

"These cells are not meant to live when they lose signals from their neighbours, and from the substratum of the tissue. But somehow metastatic cells manage to do it," says Kochetkova, who presented her work at the ComBio 2005 conference in Adelaide, Australia, last week. It is not yet known whether chemokines guide cancer cells to specific areas of the body.

  13/10/2005. New Scientist Magazine.