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Metastasis formation revealed in detail and real time
Date:12/20/2009

Up to 25% of cancer patients develop metastases in the brain often long after successful treatment of the primary tumor. In almost all such cases, the prognosis is poor. The mechanisms responsible for the appearance of brain metastases have long been mysterious. Now a research team led by neurologist Dr. Frank Winkler of LMU Munich has followed, in real time, the steps that lead some tumor cells to establish metastases, while others fail to form new tumors. The team also discovered that, by blocking formation of new blood vessels, the anti-cancer drug Avastin can suppress the emergence of metastases. "We hope that our results will help to optimize existing therapies and allow us to develop new agents that can be targeted against specific stages in the process of metastasis", says Winkler. (Nature Medicine online, 20. Dezember 2009)

It is not the primary tumor that kills most cancer patients, but the metastases which arise from it. Metastases in the brain are associated with a particularly dismal prognosis. These secondary tumors frequently appear in patients who have, or have had, lung, breast or skin cancers. They are very difficult to treat, as existing therapies can only slow, not cure, the disease. Brain metastases are also very distressing for patients, often causing headaches and nausea, but also serious neurological symptoms such as paralysis and loss of the ability to speak. "Unfortunately, brain metastases are now being seen more often than in the past", says Dr. Frank Winkler, who leads the Neurooncology Research Group at the LMU's Neurological Clinic in Munich. "Improvements in the treatment of malignancy have enhanced survival times. But this also means that more patients are at risk of developing brain metastases."

Exactly how metastases arise has been unclear. In close cooperation with Professor Jochen Herms of the LMU's Center for Neuropathology and Prion Research and scientists at the Max-Planck Institute for Neurobiol
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Contact: Luise Dirscherl
dirscherl@lmu.de
49-089-218-02706
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitt Mnchen
Source:Eurekalert

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