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Cancer's break-in tools possibly identified at Duke
Date:8/17/2009

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.


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Contact: Karl Leif Bates
karl.bates@duke.edu
919-681-8054
Duke University
Source:Eurekalert

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