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A new approach to fighting cancer
After heart disease, cancer causes most deaths in Germany. Almost a quarter of a million people die of it every year. The most dangerous thing about malignant tumor diseases is the ability to form further daughter tumors - the metastases. A German research team has now deciphered what causes tumor cells to form such metastases and how this process can be suppressed. This should slow the progression of the disease or even prevent it and the chances of survival and cure should increase.
Researchers at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg are currently testing a new antibody therapy against cancer to prevent the formation of metastases. Certain signaling molecules play a key role here, which tumors emit into the blood to form new daughter tumors. The research team found an antibody that suppresses this emission and is said to prevent metastasis.
When the cancer wanders
In current research, the Heidelberg researchers led by Professor Dr. Andreas Fischer found out how cancer cells can migrate. "In previous experiments, we were able to show that tumor cells always enter the bloodstream when certain signaling molecules are activated in blood vessel cells," reports the professor in a press release from the German Cancer Aid, which supports the research with 251,000 euros.
The cancer spreads through a sophisticated system
The scientific team showed how tumor cells send out certain signaling molecules called Notch1. These cause a chain reaction in the body, which is referred to in medicine as the “Notch signal cascade”:
- First, the molecules act on the blood vessels.
- The signals reprogram cells in the vascular wall so that they become more permeable to cancer cells.
- This enables the tumor cells to enter the bloodstream and then switch to other tissues and organs.
- The reprogrammed blood vessel wall cells also emit other messenger substances as a result of the reprogramming.
- These attract immune cells to the tumor, which increase cancer growth - "a fatal chain of reactions", according to the researchers.
New therapy is said to suppress this signal chain
"The stronger the signaling molecule Notch1 is activated in the walls of the tumor, the more cancer cells get into the blood and the more metastases can arise," summarize the researchers. This should now be prevented by a new therapy. In experiments, the research team was able to block the harmful signals of the cancer cells with an antibody. The laboratory showed that significantly fewer tumor cells settle in other organs as a result. "In further studies, we want to examine the effects of these antibodies more closely so that patients can benefit from this new approach as soon as possible," explains Professor Fischer.
Antibody therapy is also said to make advanced cancer curable
"Cancer medicine is still facing major challenges, especially when it comes to advanced disease," added Gerd Nettekoven, CEO of Deutsche Krebshilfe. Antibody therapy offers a completely new approach to prevent the spread of tumors. Artificially produced protein molecules are used that can recognize cancer cells and adhere to them. The cells are therefore marked and can be found and destroyed more easily by the immune system. They also block the binding site for other messenger substances and thus prevent the cancer cells from communicating with each other. Metastasis should be slowed down or even prevented. (vb)