Study Sheds Light on How Ovarian Cancer Spreads

With 20,000 diagnoses each year, ovarian cancer is the ninth most common cancer and fifth leading cause of cancer death among women in the United States. So many women die from ovarian cancer because it often goes undetected until it has spread within the pelvis and abdomen, by which point it is difficult to treat and usually fatal. A team of researchers from the University of California, Riverside, and the University of Notre Dame are studying the molecular mechanisms by which ovarian cancer metastasizes to uncover new therapeutic opportunities. In their latest paper, published in the journal Oncogene, the scientists used live imaging and electron microscopy to study the cellular activities associated with successful metastasis, including the expression of a group of proteins called cadherins, which help cells bind together. Because these proteins enable cancer cells to anchor to new sites in the body, it may be possible to disrupt metastasis by blocking cadherin-mediated binding. The research was led by Mark Alber, PhD, a Distinguished Professor of Applied Mathematics at UC Riverside, and M. Sharon Stack, PhD, a Kleiderer-Pezold Professor of Biochemistry and Director of Notre Dame Harper Cancer Research Institute. As primary ovarian tumors metastasize, they shed both single cells and clusters of cells, called multicellular aggregates (MCAs), into the pelvis and abdomen. To study exactly how metastasis occurs, the researchers quantified the interactions between epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) cells and three-dimensional models of the abdomen wall.
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