Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Berkeley Lab Researchers Discover How and Where Breast Tumor Cells Become Dormant and What Causes Them to Become Metastatic

The long-standing mystery behind dormant disseminated breast tumor cells and what activates them after years and even decades of latency may have been solved. Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have identified the microenvironment surrounding microvasculature – the small blood vessels that transport blood within tissues – as a niche where dormant cancer cells reside. When these blood vessels begin to sprout, the new tips produce molecules that transform dormant cancer cells into metastatic tumors.

In a small but significant number of breast cancer patients, cancerous cells can move through the bloodstream from breast tissue to secondary sites in other parts of the body where they may remain in a dormant state, clinically undetected, for an extended period of time, before suddenly becoming metastatic. It has been difficult if not impossible to predict if and when metastases will occur.

“Our study reveals that a stable microvasculature constitutes a dormant niche, whereas a sprouting neovasculature sparks micrometastatic outgrowth,” says cell biologist Mina Bissell, in whose laboratory this work was done. “Sprouting is meant to coincide with tissue growth, but if a tumor cell happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, then it comes under the influence of the........”

Read complete article
Subscribe to NBIC News