Navigation Links
Cancer's break-in tools possibly identified at Duke

A single cell in a 1-millimeter nematode worm is providing valuable new clues into cancer's deadliest behavior -- its ability to put down roots in new tissues after spreading throughout the body.

Duke University biologist David Sherwood has spent the last several years studying the mechanics of a single cell in the developing body of a worm called Caenorhabditis elegans. It's called the anchor cell and one of its jobs is to connect the developing animal's uterus with its vulva, a crucial step in ensuring the worm's fertility.

To establish this slender connection, the anchor cell must work its way through two layers of basement membrane, a dense, sheet-like barrier structure lining most tissues, including the epithelial cells in humans that are the hosts of many cancers.

In a paper appearing online Aug. 17 in the journal Developmental Cell, Sherwood and colleagues describe how the nematode's anchor cell uses a series of molecular signals to create a stretched opening in the membrane. They believe the process is essentially the same as the one cancer cells use to invade new tissues.

Together, these molecules, called integrin and netrin, may be a valuable new target in the efforts to halt cancer's spread via metastasis.

"Metastasis accounts for most of cancer's lethality," said Sherwood, who is an assistant professor of biology at Duke. "It's the most essential step in cancer progression, but it's the least understood."

To push a hole through the basement membranes, the worm's anchor cell forms several lancet-like points, called puncta. They look remarkably like a structure seen in cancer cells called invadopodia that are believed to have the same function, but modeling this part of metastasis in the lab has proven impossible so far because nobody has figured out how to make a basement membrane in a dish.

The abundant, cheap, rapidly multiplying worms -- and their basement membranes -- have enabled Sherwood to do a variety of experiments to narrow down the genes and molecular signals in play. And, with newly developed imaging technologies, they can actually watch as the cell invasion occurs.

"In vivo, you're dealing with individual cancer cells moving around the body. It is very hard to watch that,." Sherwood said. "And then asking the cancer cell 'what genes are you using to do that?' is even more difficult."

From the latest set of findings with the model organism, Sherwood believes that integrin helps the anchor cell orient itself toward the basement membranes, and that it also directs netrin to build the puncta in the proper place to ease an opening through. Interestingly, netrin is also the signal that encourages developing neuron cells to branch out and make new connections.

What's even more encouraging about both of these molecules is that they're outside the cell, Sherwood said, making them easier to target with possible drug therapy.

There are about 100 genes that seem to prevent cell invasion, and Sherwood's team is searching for those that might be the most effective. A gene called SPARC, for example, is known to be over-active in cancer cells, enabling easier penetration of the basement membrane. They are currently examining how this gene helps the anchor cell invade.

He said they would like to know how the cell turns on "invasiveness" to understand the best way to interrupt this potentially lethal behavior.

Sherwood's research was supported by a Basil O'Connor Award, Pew Scholars Award and a grant from the National Institutes of Health.


Contact: Karl Leif Bates
Duke University

Related medicine news :

1. Infection contributes to the high rates of oropharyngeal cancers
2. Smoking increases risks for head and neck cancers for men and women
3. Smoking Boosts Risk for Head, Neck Cancers
4. Oral Sex Implicated in Some Throat and Neck Cancers
5. Generic prostate drug helps find high-risk cancers early
6. Finasteride unlikely to induce high grade prostate cancers
7. More Prostate Cancers Might Be Prevented
8. Ultrasound plus mammography finds more cancers, but increases false positives
9. MU researchers studying model to learn why certain cancers become resistant to drugs
10. New All-Natural Dietary Supplement Made from Muscadine Grape Skins Helps Inhibit Growth of Certain Cancers
11. Three Chemo Drugs Better Than Two for Advanced Head/Neck Cancers
Post Your Comments:
(Date:12/1/2015)... , ... December 01, 2015 , ... With FCPX ... and with full control over customization, the possibilities are truly endless, all with a ... randomization, overlay depth position, vertical flip, horizontal flip, depth of field and more, all ...
(Date:12/1/2015)... ... December 01, 2015 , ... Dr. ... a Modern Man for 2015. , Angeleno Magazine is a division of ... Established in 1994, Modern Luxury includes more than 50 magazine titles across 15 ...
(Date:12/1/2015)... IL (PRWEB) , ... December 01, 2015 , ... ... Unified Contact Center Enterprise Authorized Technology Provider (ATP) status from Cisco. This designation ... deploy and support Cisco Unified Contact Center solutions targeted to the high-end enterprise ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... NC (PRWEB) , ... November 30, 2015 , ... ... Dawes, Amanda Beard and Brooke Bennett are collaborating with brands across various categories ... These four influential figures make up an elite group of Gold Medal Moms ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... Islands, BWI (PRWEB) , ... December 01, 2015 , ... ... Recently Caribbean Journal, one of the leading digital news sites highlighting Caribbean destinations, has ... The weather. While much of North America shivers under chilly grey skies or ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:12/1/2015)... VERONA, Virginia , 1 de diciembre ... líder en tecnología para cuchillas de precisión, ... un programa de identidad de marca. El ... en el diseño y la ingeniería de ... toda la diferencia". ...
(Date:12/1/2015)... , Dec. 1, 2015 During the ... San Francisco, CA , Medinol ... the coronary marketplace. During a satellite symposium, "The ... Design to Minimize Restenosis", a renowned physician panel ... Medinol NIRxcell™ CoCr Coronary Stent System and the ...
(Date:12/1/2015)... YORK , Dec. 1, 2015 Relmada Therapeutics, ... the treatment of chronic pain, announced today that the company ... will be held December 1-3 at the Luxe Sunset Boulevard ... Sergio Traversa , CEO of Relmada Therapeutics, will present on ... Eastern Time). . Please register at least ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: