Date Published: 13 June 2011

How the dense tissue that surrounds tumours helps drive tumour growth and development

Cancer Research UK scientists have recently revealed how the dense tissue that surrounds tumours helps drive tumour growth and development. Their findings are reported in the journal "Cancer Cell" (see Ref. to Paper below).

Briefly, when cells become cancerous they signal to the surrounding tissues to increase production of a protein called collagen, which forms a 'scaffold' around the tumour that supports the growth and development of the cells. This creates an area of dense tissue around the tumour giving the appearance of a lump that may be noticed by feeling the affected area. In turn this also switches on a protein called beta-catenin, which activates a cascade of other genes involved in tumour growth. As the cancer cells grow and divide within the scaffold they become tightly packed, activating another important pair of proteins called Rho and ROCK, which are often seen at higher levels in solid tumours. Previously scientists thought these proteins were mainly involved in the ability of tumour cells to spread around the body and invade the surrounding tissues. However, this latest research suggests that Rho and ROCK are also involved in reorganising the inner structure of the cell to help restore the balance so that cells aren't torn apart as the tumour increases in size.

Professor Michael Olson, who led the study, said:

" Collagen is a protein most people probably associate with cosmetic surgery to create fuller, firmer lips. But it's a major component of our connective tissues and also important in tumour growth."

Dr Lesley Walker, Cancer Research UK's director of cancer information, said:

" Feeling a lump is one of the main ways that solid cancers are picked up and this research demonstrates just how important this increased tissue stiffness is in terms of driving tumour growth and development.
_ Understanding more about the molecules involved in creating tissue stiffness in tumours could be an important step in developing new drugs effective at halting or slowing tumour growth

Reference to Paper
Samuel et al. Actomyosin-mediated cellular tension drives increased tissue stiffness and beta-catenin activation to induce interfollicular epidermal hyperplasia and tumour growth, Cancer Cell (2011).

Source: Cancer Research UK

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