LA JOLLA, CA August 31, 2011 - Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute have shown that a particular white blood cell plays a direct role in the development and spread of cancerous tumors. Their work sheds new light on the development of the disease and points toward novel strategies for treating early-stage cancers.
The study was published in September 2011 print issue of the American Journal of Pathology.
Scripps Research Professor James Quigley, Staff Scientist Elena Deryugina, and colleagues had previously demonstrated that white blood cells known as neutrophilsbone marrow-derived cells that function as "first responders" at sites of acute inflammationpromote the growth of new blood vessels in normal, healthy tissue.
The team has now tied these cells to the induction and growth of new blood vessels in malignant tumors and to the spread of tumor cells through those newly formed vessels. The scientists have also uncovered some of the mechanisms underpinning this processwhich could be interrupted by properly targeted drugs.
Potent and Uninhibited
The Scripps Research team has been particularly interested in neutrophils, in part because several studies have demonstrated a link between elevated neutrophil levels and high rates of tumor invasion among cancer patients. Mounting evidence has also indicated that neutrophils play a particularly important role during the early stages of tumor development.
"During tumor development, neutrophils appear to be one of the first inflammatory cell types on the scene," said Deryugina, who spearheaded the new study.
The researchers have been especially interested in the blood vessel-forming or "angiogenic," powers of neutrophils, which stem from a special enzyme they produce known as MMP-9 (matrix metalloproteinase type 9). The enzyme is, in fact, synthesized by a number of different types of white blood cells and has long been linked to tumo
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Scripps Research Institute