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Scientists discover why cancer spreads in human body

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 18th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In what could mean a possible gateway to finding a cure, scientists believe they have discovered how cancer spreads throughout the human body. A study has identified a mechanism known as the "chase and run" effect, where diseased and healthy cells follow each other around the body.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Researchers at University College London say the discovery may lead to a revolutionary therapy that blocks the action and keeps tumors in one place.

Scientists claim it will be "relatively easy" to stop the "chase and run" effect.

"Most deaths are not due to the formation of the primary tumor," study spokesman Professor Roberto Mayor says. "Instead, people die from secondary tumors originating from the first malignant cells, which are able to travel and colonize vital organs of the body such as the lungs or the brain.

"This happens because the cells get healthy ones to follow them. Nobody knew how this happened, and now we believe we have uncovered it," Mayor says.

"If that is the case, it will be relatively easy to develop drugs that interfere with this interaction."

Two types of embryonic cells to simulate the roles of cancerous and healthy cells were used in the study, as published in the journal Nature Cell Biology. The key to the findings was ascertaining why cancerous cells attach themselves to healthy cells in the first place.

Researchers mimicked what happens by using comparable types of cell and observing their behavior.

Conducting the study using frog and zebra fish embryos, researchers are confident that the process in which cancer cells attach to healthy ones in order to migrate around the body works in a similar way.

While the research has been welcomed, other researchers are sounding words of caution. "This research helps to reveal some of the fundamental biological processes that might be at work as cells move around the body, but the scientists have only looked at developing frog and zebra fish embryos rather than specifically looking at cancer cells," Dr Kat Arney at Cancer Research U.K., says.

"So there is a very long way to go to see whether this knowledge can be translated into new treatments for cancer patients."

It must also be noted that the team was unable to find out what causes cancer in the first place.

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