Detecting Breast Cancer Metastasis through Blood Vessel Permeability

September 11, 2015

Scientists have discovered how blood vessel walls enable breast cancer cells to metastastize to other areas, which could lead to new anticancer treatments.

Scientists have discovered how blood vessel walls enable breast cancer cells to metastastize to other areas, which could lead to new anticancer treatments. Researchers at the NCI-designated Albert Einstein Cancer Center (AECC) and Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care in Bronx, NY, identified how a “doorway” in the blood vessel wall allows cancer cells to spread. The study on this phenomenon was first published in the August 12, 2015 online edition of Cancer Discovery.1

“The discovery of a unique doorway that allows tumor cells into the blood stream opens new opportunities for the development of antimetastasis therapeutics,” said John Condeelis, PhD, professor and co-chair of anatomy and structural biology, in a press release.2 He also serves as co-director of the Gruss Lipper Biophotonics Center and the Integrated Imaging Program, and the Judith and Burton P. Resnick Chair in Translational Research at Einstein.

Dr. Condeelis and his research team used a mouse model of human breast cancer and mice implanted with human breast tissue. With high-resolution imaging, they were able to see how this process occurs. Importantly, this finding could be useful in predicting which types of breast cancer are likely to spread, possibly reducing the number of tests that women have to endure after initial diagnosis.

Dr. Condeelis and colleagues previously discovered that breast cancer spreads when three specific cells are in direct contact:

  • An endothelial cell (a type of cell that lines the blood vessels)
  • A perivascular macrophage (a type of immune cell found near blood vessels)
  • A tumor cell that produces high levels of Mena, a protein that enhances a cancer cell’s ability to invade

The site where these three cells come in direct and stable contact––called a tumor microenvironment of metastasis  (TMEM)––is where tumor cells enter blood vessels.1 They observed that vascular permeability is transient, restricted to the TMEM, and required for tumor cell dissemination.2

More studies will enable researchers to translate this new discovery from the bench to the bedside.

 

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