Scientists track how cancer cells break free and spread

March 25th, 2009 - 5:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, March 25 (IANS) Johns Hopkins researchers have figured out a method to track how cancer cells break free from tissue and spread to other parts of the body. For example, cancer that starts in the breast sometimes spreads to the lungs.
“Studying cell detachment at the subcellular level is critical to understanding the way cancer cells metastasize (spread),” said study’s principal investigator Peter Searson, professor of materials science and engineering at Hopkins.

His team’s research focuses on a missing puzzle in the common but unfortunate events that can occur in cancer patients like spreading of cancer cells from one part of the body to another.

That’s because tumour cells detach and travel through the bloodstream to settle in other tissues. Scientists have learned much about how cancer cells attach to these surfaces, but they know little about how these insidious cells detach because no one had created a simple way to study the process.

Searson and two other scientists from Johns Hopkins’ Whiting School of Engineering have solved this problem with a lab-on-a-chip device that can help researchers study cell detachment. With this device, they hope to discover exactly how cancer cells spread.

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