New Treatment Approach Shows Promise for Metastatic Cancer

Research shows cells are unable to divide and invade at the same time.

Research shows cells are unable to divide and invade at the same time.

A new method that targets invasive cancer cells may lead to a novel treatment for the disease.

While the majority of cancer treatments target dividing cells, research indicates that targeting invasive cells could present a promising treatment approach for metastatic cancer.

Investigators from Stony Brook University found cells in C. elegans, a roundworm nematode, are unable to divide and invade simultaneously. Their study, published in Developmental Cell, is the first to exhibit a dichotomy between cell division and cell invasion.

The study showed that roundworm cells are only able to become invasive when it stops dividing. At the point that cells turn invasive, it escapes from tumor tissue in order to form new tumors.

The researchers utilized anchor cells from the worm's developing uterus to show this process. The anchor cells must invade via cellular tissue membrane to reach cells that become the egg-laying apparatus.

This mirrors the process through which cancer cells leave one tissue to form another.

Further research utilizing genetic analyses of anchor cells may eventually show the mechanism behind the inability of these cells to simultaneously divide and invade, which could lead to a new approach for testing cancer cells.

"Our finding changes how we think about cancer to some level," said lead author David Q. Matus, PhD, assistant Professor in the department of Biochemistry & Cell Biology at Stony Brook. "While it will remain important to target dividing cells -- as cancer is a disease of uncontrolled cell division -- we need to figure out how to target non-dividing cells too since they are the invasive ones."