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Scientists at Yale provide explanation for how cancer spreads
Date:4/29/2008

Metastasis, the spread of cancer throughout the body, can be explained by the fusion of a cancer cell with a white blood cell in the original tumor, according to Yale School of Medicine researchers, who say that this single event can set the stage for cancers migration to other parts of the body.

Their work was Published in the May issue of Nature Reviews Cancer. The studies, spanning 15 years, have revealed that the newly formed hybrid of the cancer cell and white blood cell adapts the white blood cells natural ability to migrate around the body, while going through the uncontrolled cell division of the original cancer cell. This causes a metastatic cell to emerge, which like a white blood cell, can migrate through tissue, enter the circulatory system and travel to other organs.

This is a unifying explanation for metastasis, said John Pawelek, a researcher in the Department of Dermatology at Yale School of Medicine and at Yale Cancer Center, who conducted the studies with colleague Ashok K. Chakraborty and several other Yale scientists. Although we know a vast amount about cancer, how a cancer cell becomes metastatic still remains a mystery.

The fusion theory was first proposed in the early 1900s and has attracted a lot of scientific interest over the years. Pawelek and his colleagues began their research several years ago by fusing white blood cells with tumor cells. These experimental hybrids the researchers observed, were remarkably metastatic and lethal when implanted into mice. In addition, the scientists noted, some of the molecules the hybrids used to metastasize originated from white blood cells, and these molecules were the same as those used by metastatic cells in human cancers. Pawelek and his team then validated previous findings that hybridization occurs naturally in mice, and results in metastatic cancer.

Viewing the fusion of a cancer cell and a white blood cell as the initiating event for metastasis sugg
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Contact: Karen N. Peart
karen.peart@yale.edu
203-432-1326
Yale University
Source:Eurekalert

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