The researcher was conducted by University of Guelph researchers.
Washington: A team of researchers has made a discovery that could reduce the spread of cancer by hindering a protein that binds cancer cells together and allows them to invade tissues.
The University of Guelph study identified a protein, known as cadherin-22, as a potential factor in cancer metastasis, or spread, and showed that hindering it decreased the adhesion and invasion rate of breast and brain cancer cells by up to 90 per cent.
"Cadherin-22 could be a powerful prognostic marker for advanced cancer stages and patient outcomes," said lead author Jim Uniacke. "If you can find a treatment or a drug that can block cadherin-22, you could potentially prevent cancer cells from moving, invading and metastasizing."
The study looked specifically at hypoxia - low-oxygen conditions - in tumours.
Most solid cancer tumours that have outgrown their blood supply, and are therefore deprived of oxygen, are difficult to treat, and the cells within are capable of spreading rapidly and doing the most damage. In over a hundred breast and brain cancer patient tumour specimens, researchers found that the more hypoxic the tumour was, the more cadherin-22 it had.
Cadherin-22 is located on cell surfaces, allowing hypoxic cancer cells to stick together and migrate collectively as a group, said Uniacke.
Studying breast and brain cancer cells in a hypoxia incubator, Uniacke and his team discovered that cadherin-22 is involved in this process to enable the spread of cancer cells.
"We found that the more hypoxic a tumour was, the more cadherin-22 there was in the area of the hypoxia," he said. "Not only that, but the more cadherin-22 that there is in a tumour, the more advanced the cancer stage and the worse the prognosis is for the patients."
The findings offer vital insights into how tumour cells could become aggressive and spread to other parts of the body.
The study is published in the journal Oncogene.