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Cancer Metastasis Comes from a 'Broken Switch'

1 year, 2 months ago

6032  0
Posted on Dec 08, 2017, 1 p.m.

The researchers at Cancer Research (ICR) in London discovered that metastasized cancer cells have a “switch” that is always on which prevents normal controls that would inhibit them spreading

In a new study researchers have discovered new information as to how cancer cells break off from primary tumors and spread (metastasize) to other areas of the body.

The researchers at Cancer Research (ICR) in London discovered that metastasized cancer cells have a “switch” that is always on which prevents normal controls that would inhibit them spreading

Dr. Chris Bakal, who leads the team at ICR's Division of Cancer Biology, says they have discovered how cancer cells a=have developed the ability to overcome the normal restrictions on them spreading, which is the cause of many types of cancer death. Limiting or preventing their ability to migrate could save millions of lives.

Science has found many chemical and physical differences between original cancer cells and those that metastasize. In fact, researcher published a catalogue in 2013 that outlined both the mechanical and chemical differences of the two forms as to how they:

  • migrate,
  • respond to Oxygen,
  • produce protein
  • and stick to other surfaces

What was not quite so clear was how to inhibit the signaling that changes the cell at the molecular level to modify both the character of the cell and its reaction to the environment it is a part of.

In this study, the ICR team discovered that metastasized cancer cells continually activate the YAP molecule which acts as a sensor that feels its surroundings and allows them to adhere to the environment of other molecules, proteins, and water around it, called “the extracellular matrix”. Normally cells do not move around or grasp on to other cells, however YAP bypasses normal constraints by turning on genes that are normally turned off. Some cancer cells have the ability to produce YAP continuously allowing them to move about the body at will. A molecule called beta-PIX partially controls YAP as the cancer cell clings to the extra cellular matrix and moves through tissue.

The team discovered that when the cells were forced to stay in the matrix the YAP activity increased. YAP activity decreased when beta-Pix molecules were reduced. They then wanted to know more about the YAP-PIX links during metastasis. They looked at triple-negative primary cancer cells in breast tumors vs secondary tumors. Tests revealed disabling the PIX pathway in primary tumors failed to activate YAP, but it did activate in secondary cells.

The team feels that this information definitely shows a correlation between PIX and YAP in metastatic cells, but not primary cells, thereby allowing them to maintain high levels of YAP even when not bound to the extracellular matrix.

Dr. Chris Bakal says that this indicates metastasized cells traveling around the body have a “broken switch” which is always on allowing for the continuous production of YAP, which allows for continuous growing and spreading of the cancer cells. More research is needed to discover ways of turning this switch off.


  1. journal Cell Systems.

By: Dr. Michael J. Koch, Editor for and Dr. Ronald Klatz, DO, MD President of the A4M which has 28,000 Physician Members, and has trained over 150,000 physicians, health professionals and scientists around the world in the new specialty of Anti-Aging Medicine. A4M physicians are now providing advanced preventative medical care for over 10’s of Million individuals worldwide who now recognize that aging is no longer inevitable.

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