October 12, 2015

University of Turku gains insight into spread of cancer

A research group from the University of Turku has discovered that cancer cells that have detached from tissue can survive and spread cancer.
A research group from the University of Turku has discovered that cancer cells that have detached from tissue can survive and spread cancer.
University of Turku / Hanna Oksanen

The recent results from research carried out at the University of Turku will have a major impact on the future of cancer research.

A group led by the Academy of Finland researcher Johanna Ivaska detected that cancer cells that have detached from the surrounding tissue survive thanks to intracellular receptor traffic and can cause cancer cells to spread.

Previously, researchers have known that human cells must be attached to tissue in order to survive. This is due to the special signals sent by the cells’ adhesion receptors, called integrins, which are essential for the cells’ survival. However, cancer cells spreading in the body have developed ways to stay alive even when they are no longer attached to tissue.

“The new research results show for the first time that the signals that are transmitted by the integrins on their surroundings, and which are necessary for the cells to survive, are dependent on intracellular receptor traffic,” says Ivaska.

Preventing this intracellular receptor traffic reduces the ability of cancer cells to survive when detached from tissue, thus stemming the spread of cancer. According to the University of Turku, the results will have a direct impact on how cancer research is directed in future.

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