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New Study on Cancer: Preventing Metastasis from being Initiated

A new study has perhaps unveiled a successful way to tackle malignant cancer. The researchers have worked on two proteins involved in the movement of cancerous cells to other body parts. They have demonstrated how by preventing interactions between the two said proteins, cancerous growths can be curtailed.


Cancer exists in two broad types: benign cancer and malignant cancer. The former involves the less damaging type whereby only a certain part of the body contains the cancerous cells – at this stage, the cancer can be stopped in an easier manner. However, if the tumour cells break away from the original site of cancer formation and travel to other body parts of the body via the bloodstream – a process called metastasis – and hence causing other cancerous growths, it becomes increasingly challenging to contain the disease. A new research has hopefully found the key to stopping metastasis. A protein therapy that can dismantle the process of metastasis has been developed.

Metastasis is quite common in cancer patients – the cancer spreads and results in deadly consequences. The existing methods to prevent or, at least, to slow the propagation of cancer cells are inadequate. Moreover, they have unpleasant side effects. The team of researchers have therefore aimed at working on another strategy altogether to deal with the spread of cancer cells. They have focused their work on two proteins, the Axl and the Gas6. Axls are found on the surface of cancer cells. Two of the Gas6 connect with two of the Asls and this established link allows the cancerous cells to detach from the original cancer site to move to other body parts. Therefore, the task was to prevent the two proteins from interacting with each other such that the initiation of the spread of the diseased cells was stopped.

The technique used entailed manufacturing a harmless form of the Axl protein so that the Gas6 found in the blood can connect with this type of Axl, such that they would not, as a result, link up with the Axls on the cancer cell surfaces. This was then used on laboratory mice which were made to suffer from agressive cancerous growths. The results then showed that the mice with breast cancer had 78 % less metastatic nodules as compared to those mice with cancer but which were not treated with the Axl harmless versions. Other mice with ovarian cancer were also treated with the engineered Axl and they had a 90 % decrease in the nodules.

The researchers view their results as being extremely promising: the study could provide the building blocks for cancer treatment. More tests on the animals have to be done before clinical trials on humans are done though.


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