Cancer: growth & spread
Before a tumour can grow, spread and invade other parts of the body, a lot of things need to happen. When a tumour reaches a certain size, it needs a blood supply to grow further. Cancer cells release chemical messages that trick the body into building this blood supply for the tumour. This is called angiogenesis.
Some cancer cells may become more aggressive than others and start to spread. When they do, they need to make contact with a dense network of proteins called the extracellular matrix, which is the glue that sticks your body’s cells together. Integrins are proteins that connect to this extracellular matrix and navigate the cell by giving signals where to go. In the case of cancer, particular integrins are involved in causing the cells to invade healthy tissue.
As the cancer cells move around, they can reach a blood vessel, and squeeze in. Through the bloodstream they can travel to another part of the body where they squeeze out and form a secondary tumour in a process called metastasis.
Learning more about these processes is vital in the effort to stop cancer, and they are a major focus of the excellent research being done at the Tumour Biology Centre of the Barts Cancer Institute in London.
– You can find the Barts Cancer Insitute here: http://bci.qmul.ac.uk/
– More information on the work at the Tumour Biology Centre: http://bci.qmul.ac.uk/research/centre-profiles/tumour-biology
– Adhesion and integrin research at the BCI: http://bci.qmul.ac.uk/staff/tag/Adhesion%20and%20Integrins
– Angiogenesis research at the BCI: http://bci.qmul.ac.uk/staff/tag/Angiogenesis
– Metastasis and invasion research at the BCI: http://bci.qmul.ac.uk/staff/tag/Metastasis%20and%20Invasion