NEW YORK (May 29, 2012) -- Cancer researchers have known for well over a century that different tumor types spread only to specific, preferred organs. But no one has been able to determine the mechanisms of organ specific metastasis, the so-called "soil and seed" theory of 1889. New details that could help shed light on this hypothesis have been provided by a team of researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and their collaborators, proposing a new mechanism controlling cancer metastasis that offers fresh diagnostic and treatment potential.
The findings, recently published online by Nature Medicine, show how melanoma cancer cells release small "exosome" vesicles (microscopic particles like "bubbles" filled with many different molecules such as proteins and nucleic acids) that travel to the bone, liver, lung and brain. This cellular material fuses with these organs and establishes an environment ripe for spreading tumor cells.
These dangerous cancer exosomes have many effects, the researchers say, such as triggering inflammation, promoting leaky blood vessels and "educating" bone marrow progenitor cells to participate in the metastatic cascade soon to come.
The fact that these exosomes circulate in the blood -- and thus are readily measurable as well as accessible -- could provide an advantage to cancer diagnoses, prognoses and treatment, the researchers say.
"The exosome profile could be useful in a number of ways -- to help detect cancer early, to predict the aggressiveness of a patient's tumor and response to chemotherapy or other treatments, and to understand the risk of cancer recurrence or spread before traditional methods would be able to," says Dr. David C. Lyden, the Stavros S. Niarchos Associate Professor in Pediatric Cardiology, associate professor of Pediatrics and Cell and Developmental Biology at Weill Cornell Medical College and a pediatric neuro-oncologist a
|Contact: Lauren Woods|
New York- Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center/Weill Cornell Medical College