A new study from the research group of Dr. John Lewis at the University of Alberta (Edmonton, AB) and the Lawson Health Research Institute (London, ON), both in Canada, has confirmed that "invadopodia" (image) play a key role in the spread of cancer. The study, published online on August 28, 2014 in Cell Reports, shows that preventing these tentacle-like structures from forming can stop the spread of cancer entirely. Approximately two in five Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetime, and one in four of them will die of the disease. In 2014, it's estimated that nine Canadians will die of cancer every hour. Thanks to advances in medical research and care, cancer can often be treated with high success if detected early. However, after it spreads, cancer becomes much more difficult to treat. To spread, or "metastasize," cancer cells must enter the blood stream or lymph system, travel through its channels, and then exit to another area or organ in the body. This final exit is the least understood part of the metastatic process. Previous research has shown cancer cells are capable of producing "invadopodia," a type of extension that cells use to probe and change their environment. However, the significance of invadopodia in the escape of cancer cells from the bloodstream has been unclear. In this study, the scientists injected fluorescent cancer cells into the bloodstream of test models, and then captured the fate of these cells using high-resolution time-lapse imaging. Results confirmed that the cancer cells formed invadopodia to reach out of the bloodstream and into the tissue of the surrounding organs – they essentially formed "tentacles" that enabled the tumor cell to enter the organ. However, through genetic modification or drug treatment, the scientists were able to block the factors needed for invadopodia to form.
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