Johns Hopkins Researchers Unlock Secret Of Cancer Metastasis; Innovative Drug Treatments Might Halt Cancer Spreading

While an undergraduate, Jayatilaka noticed that when cancer cells became too densely packed, some would break off and start spreading. She then attended an academic conference in which a researcher discussed bacterial cells behaving similarly.

Fully 90 percent of cancer deaths occur when cancer metastasizes. The Johns Hopkins team now has discovered the biochemical mechanism that tells cancer cells to break away from the primary tumor. Jayatilaka explained the situation this way:

A female patient with breast cancer doesn't succumb to the disease just because she has a mass on her breast; she succumbs to the disease because [when] it spreads either to the lungs, the liver, the brain, it becomes untreatable.”

There are really no therapeutics out there right now that directly target the spread of cancer. So what we came up with through our studies was this drug cocktail that could potentially inhibit the spread of cancer.”

The results of the team’s study was published May 26 in the journal Nature Communications. It revealed that when a malignant tumor reaches a certain density, it releases two proteins called Interleukin 6 and Interleukin 8. These proteins signal cancer cells that things have grown too crowded and the time has come to break off and head into other parts of the body.

Denis Wirtz, Johns Hopkins' vice provost for research and director of its Physical Sciences-Oncology Center, who was a senior author on the paper, noted that cancer researchers typically believed tumor growth and the act of the cancer spreading were unrelated activities.

He explained that once cancer cells start to sense the presence of too many other cancer cells around them, they start secreting the Interleukin proteins.

That’s why the team decided to test two drugs known to work on the Interleukin receptors to see if they would block or slow metastasis in mice.

They discovered using the drugs together would block the signals from the Interleukin proteins telling the cancer cells to break off and spread, slowing — though not completely stopping — metastasis.

The drugs used were Tocilizumab, a rheumatoid arthritis treatment, and Reparixin, which is being evaluated for cancer treatment.

The drugs bind to the Interleukin receptors and block their signals, slowing metastasis.”

Jayatilaka is hopeful that another drug can be found to add to the drug cocktail that will stop metastasis completely.

The next step could be to extend the research to clinical trials involving humans to see if the drug cocktails will prove the key to stopping the spread of cancer and isolating tumors for direct treatments that are known to work.

Source: Baltimore Sun




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