Researchers from the German Cancer Research Center and the Heidelberg Institute for Stem Cell Technology and Experimental Medicine have found that some tumor cells get separated from the parent tumors and then stimulate the connective tissue cells to release certain transmitters for promoting metastasis. This process is done to colonize the other organs and the detached tumors manipulate the environment according to their needs for creating the ‘metastatic niche’.
This discovery is helpful for scientists to better understand the mechanism that how these harmful metastases arise. This research paper is published in the journal Nature Communications.
When cancer spreads to other parts of the body from the initial site then the process is called metastasis. It usually develops when the cancerous cells break their connection from the main or parent tumor and move to the bloodstream or lymphatic system. Through these systems, the detached tumor travels far away from the main site and form new tumors when they settle down in specific tissue.
If the cancerous cells detached from the parent tumors, then many of them were died before colonizing other tissues and forming metastases. Because When a tumor detached from the parent tumor then the body immunes system gets activated and protects the healthy cells and tissues of the body from the intruding effects of cancerous cells.
These migrant cells will only survive in the body if they have the power to manipulate their new environment for creating the metastatic niche. This metastatic niche makes them survive in the body by protecting against the body’s immune system.
Thordur Oskarssan and his team of researchers from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and the Heidelberg Institute for Stem Cell Technology and Experimental Medicine (HI-STEM gGmbH) are concerned in exploring the mechanism that how this metastatic niche evolves. Scientists found that in breast cancer some specific aggressive cells stimulate a certain condition which is similar to the inflammation in the lung tissue. So, it confirms that these cells colonize the other healthy tissues and promote metastases.
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Two inflammatory signaling molecules known as interleukins are released from the detached cancerous cells. In microenvironment, these interleukins stimulate fibroblasts in the lungs to release two more inflammatory signaling molecules i.e. CXCL10 and CXCL9.
Migrant cancer cells carry receptors on their surface that attach to these signaling molecules which is a pivotal step during the process of metastases. The signaling molecules (CXL10 and CXCL9) and inflammation aid the particular aggressive breast cancerous cells to colonize other tissues and form metastases.
Maren Pein who is a lead author of the study said that the same tumor’s cells that provoke the fibroblast to release CXCL10 and CXCL9 also contain some other receptors for theses cytokines which help the growing process of metastases. This indicates that cellular communication between fibroblasts and detached cancerous cells in the new microenvironment is very crucial for metastasis.
During the experimental studies, scientists treated the lungs of mice with an inhibitor which blocked the receptors on the cancer cells. These inhibitors used to prevent the growing process of metastasis.
Scientists took tissue samples from the patients of breast cancer and found that the same cellular communication was also present in breast cancer cells. The process in which “tumors cells having the relevant receptors utilize these interactions along with fibroblast to create the metastatic niche” is also found in the breast cancer patients.
Oskarsson further explained that before developing any treatment approaches, it is necessary to understand the exact mechanism of metastasis. Initially, the study was carried out to explore the actual process that helps to arise metastases. A better understanding will enable scientists to develop different ways to prevent metastases in the future.