Secretion of Specific Proteins by Breast Cancer Stem Cells May Account For Enhanced Metastatic Potential

Secretion of Specific Proteins by Breast Cancer Stem Cells May Account For Enhanced Metastatic Potential
Breast cancer stem cells can induce the metastatic potential of neighboring cells through the secretion of specific molecules, according to a study developed in the University of Colorado Cancer Center and presented at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) 2016 Annual Meeting that took place in New Orleans, Louisiana, April 16-20. Epithelial cells -- the most common cells found in the breast tissue -- can lose their differentiated state and become mesenchymal stem cells in a process that is called epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT). This process, which grants otherwise anchored cells migratory and invasive properties, is essential throughout development and in wound healing, but is mostly known for its role in metastasis initiation. Epithelial cells that detach from their tissue substrate undergo a programmed cell death known as anoikis, hampering them from traveling through the blood and propagating the cancer to other parts of the body. However, cells that underwent EMT are able to detach and survive, leading to cancer spreading. The researchers found that in addition, these cells can also secrete molecules that allow the neighboring cells to detach and metastasize. "A tumor is not one thing. There is heterogeneity — many kinds of cancer cells acting in many different ways. What we show is that within a breast tumor, cells that have undergone a transition that makes them stem-like secrete transcription factors that affect the behaviors of surrounding cells, making these cells able to detach from the tumor site and move through the body to seed sites of metastasis," explained Heide Ford, PhD, investigator at the CU Cancer Center and assoc
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