Cancer becomes life-threatening when tumor cells start leaving their primary site. They travel through the lymph and blood streams to other tissues where they grow into metastases. This transition to malignancy is associated with characteristic changes in the cancer cells. The activity of several genes is reprogrammed and, thus, the production of proteins anchoring cells to a tissue is reduced. On the other hand, the amount of surface markers which make a cancer cell mobile increases.
Professor Dr. Heike Allgayer heads a Clinical Cooperation Unit of DKFZ and UMM. She is an expert for those cellular processes that lead to metastasis in cancer. In recent years, scientists have discovered that production of many proteins is regulated by what are called micro-RNAs. These RNA molecules, which consist of only about 23 building blocks, attach specifically to messenger RNAs, which contain the blueprints for proteins. In this way, they block the production of the respective protein.
"We believe that micro-RNAs also play an important role in metastasis and that they program cells in a way that leads to malignant growth," medical researcher Heike Allgayer explains. In an international collaboration with researchers in Turin, Italy, Allgayer and her team used various cell lines of non-small cell lung cancer to investigate a particularly suspicious candidate called miR-200c and its role in malignant growth. The research team found out that the less miR-200c is produced by a cell line, the higher its motility and its capacity to invade surrounding tissue. When the researchers experimentally equipped the cancer cells with additional miR-200c, the amount of tissue-anchoring molecules on their surface increased and their invasive capacity became lower. In animal experiments, these cells produced less metastasis.
A dreaded characteristic of non-small cell lung cancer is its resistance to chemotherapy and targeted anticancer drugs. A lack of miR-200c
|Contact: Dr. Sibylle Kohlstaedt|
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres