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Tumors bring their own support cells when forming metastases
Date:12/1/2010

The process of metastasis requires that cancer cells traveling from a primary tumor find a hospitable environment in which to implant themselves and grow. A new study from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Cancer Center researchers finds that circulating tumor cells prepare this environment by bringing along from their original site noncancerous cells that support tumor growth. The report has been published online in PNAS Early Edition.

"It has been known for some time that noncancerous stromal cells which provide a support structure for tissues and organs contribute to the growth of primary tumors, providing the 'soil' in which tumors can grow," says Dan Duda, PhD, DMD, of the Steele Laboratory for Tumor Biology in the MGH Department of Radiation Oncology, lead author of the report. "Our study shows that this primary soil also helps the initial growth of tumor seeds in a 'foreign' soil. This new role for these noncancerous cells is both a conceptual advance and offers potential new targets for treating or preventing metastatic disease."

Several previous studies by members of the MGH team and others have found clumps containing both tumor cells and stromal cells in blood and lymphatic vessels of cancer patients and have shown that these "passenger" stromal cells will proliferate along with the tumor cells if implanted at a new site. The current investigation was designed to determine whether primary tumors release fragments containing both tumor and stromal cells, whether those stromal cells survive and contribute to the development of metastases, and whether depletion of stromal cells could interfere with metastatic growth.

Several experiments in mice confirmed that implanted tumors shed both single tumor cells and clumps containing tumor and stromal cells and that tumor cells accompanied by stromal cells were more likely to survive. Not only did stromal cells from the original tumor proliferate at the site of metas
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Contact: Sue McGreevey
smcgreevey@partners.org
617-724-2764
Massachusetts General Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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