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HST Student and an Assistant Professor Published in Nature Communications

SCIENTISTS DISCOVER HOW CANCER CELLS ESCAPE BLOOD VESSELS - STUDY OFFERS NEW TARGETS FOR DRUGS THAT MAY PREVENT CANCER FROM SPREADING

Anne Trafton | MIT News Office

Scientists at MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital have discovered how cancer cells latch onto blood vessels and invade tissues to form new tumors — a finding that could help them develop drugs that inhibit this process and prevent cancers from metastasizing.

Cancer cells circulating in the bloodstream can stick to blood vessel walls and construct tiny “bridges” through which they inject genetic material that transforms the endothelial cells lining the blood vessels, making them much more hospitable to additional cancer cells, according to the new study.

The researchers also found that they could greatly reduce metastasis in mice by inhibiting the formation of these nanobridges.

“Endothelial cells line every blood vessel and are the first cells in contact with any blood-borne element. They serve as the gateway into and out of tumors and have been the focus of intense research in vascular and cancer biology. These findings bring these two fields together to add greater insight into control of cancer and metastases,” says Elazer Edelman, the Thomas D. and Virginia W. Cabot Professor of Health Sciences and Technology, a member of MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, and one of the leaders of the research team.

The lead author of the paper, which appears in the Dec. 16 issue of Nature Communications, is Yamicia Connor, a graduate student in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST). The paper’s senior author is Shiladitya Sengupta, an assistant professor at HST and at Harvard Medical School.

Date: 
Tuesday, December 22, 2015