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Cancer stopped in its tracks by reprogrammed fibroblasts

Posted: 1 October 2015 | Victoria White

If further studies show this route can benefit patients, it could help crack one of the toughest challenges in cancer research – how to stop tumours spreading…

If further studies show this route can benefit patients, it could help crack one of the toughest challenges in cancer research – how to stop tumours spreading...

Researchers at the Francis Crick Institute and the University of Copenhagen have discovered a new way to potentially ‘fence in’ a tumour and help stop cancer cells spreading.

Tumours cause cells called fibroblasts to stiffen the surrounding tissue so that cancer cells can grip it– allowing them to tunnel through to the blood stream and spread around the body. But the team showed that adding experimental drugs reprogrammed fibroblasts, stopping them from ‘stiffening’ the tissue around tumours. This healthy tissue trapped the cancer cells, blocking their movement away from the tumour.

The team showed in mice that targeting fibroblasts reduced the movement of cancer cells from the tumour to the lungs and liver through the blood stream.

Healthy tissue contains and restrains aggressive tumours

Dr Erik Sahai from the Francis Crick Institute said, “This could be an exciting new way to harness the potential of the healthy tissue surrounding cancers to contain and restrain aggressive tumours – stopping cancer cells from breaking away and moving to new places in the body.”

Dr Janine Erler from the University of Copenhagen said, “Its early days but a very promising new avenue of research. If further studies show this route can benefit patients, it could help crack one of the toughest challenges in cancer research – how to stop tumours spreading.

“As these fibroblasts are present in all solid tumours, our findings may be relevant to many different cancer types. The therapy we tested is used to treat inflammatory diseases and could be used to treat cancer patients.”

Reprogramming fibroblasts could stop cancer in its tracks

Nell Barrie, senior science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said, “Most deaths from cancer are caused when cancer cells travel to new sites in the body and grow as secondary tumours. And we know that it’s not just cancer cells that play a part in this process – other cells in and around tumours are involved too.

“But the good news is research like this has the potential to uncover new ways to stop cancer in its tracks. Ultimately we hope these findings could lead to better ways to control the disease – and save more lives.”

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