Scientists from the Institute of Cancer Research in London and the University of Nice in France have joined together to research new treatments for cancer and they have discovered how cancer spreads.
When a protein called JAK becomes switched on, it triggers contractions in tumors which allow cancer cells to squeeze through tiny spaces and spread.
Tumors are made up of cancer, tumor-associated healthy cells and a glue that sticks everything together called the cell matrix. After JAK has been activated, a force is produced that is similar to a muscle contraction. This can then move them through the matrix and into other areas.
The tumor-associated healthy cells can also use this same force to create tunnels that the tumor cells can move down.
The study authors wrote, “Proinflammatory cytokines are frequently observed in the tumor microenvironment, and chronic inflammation is involved in cancer initiation and progression. We show that cytokine signaling through the receptor subunit GP130-IL6ST and the kinase JAK1 generates actomyosin contractility through Rho-kinase dependent signaling. This pathway generates contractile force in stromal fibroblasts to remodel the extracellular matrix to create tracks for collective migration of squamous carcinoma cells.”
There are already drugs that block the action of JAK that are currently in development so the researchers’ idea is to formulate a new treatment that will stop JAK’s ability to cause contractions and thereby halt the spread of cancer.
Lead author Professor Chris Marshall, from the Institute of Cancer Research said,
“There’s an urgent need to understand how tumours can spread from their site of origin, for example the skin, to other tissues, such as the lungs, liver and bone where the disease becomes more difficult to treat successfully.
“We’ve shown that the same protein called JAK triggers tumour spread via two different routes – it generates the force needed for cancer cells to move around the body and also for triggers healthy cells in tumours to create furrows in tissues down which cancer cells move.