In two breast cancer studies, researchers have concluded that cancer cells spread to organs much earlier than was thought and even before tomours are form. The findings of this new research may challenge the existing knowledge of cancer and methods to treat it.
Cancer cells remain quiet for long periods of time
According to two new studies - conducted by researchers at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the University of Regensburg in Germany - cancer cells not only spread even before a tumour develops they also remain quiet for long periods of time and then awaken to form aggressive and fatal metastasis. Previously, some 5% of cancer patients have metastases but no original tumour were found and these findings offer an explanation to it. The studies appeared recently in Nature, a leading international science journal.
Correct molecular mechanism identified
These two new studies on breast cancer have, for the first time ascertained the correct molecular mechanisms by which cancer cells spread. Though both the studies are based on breast cancer research, researchers say the early departure of cancer cells to seed metastases can occur in other human cancers, including in melanoma and pancreatic cancer.
Explain why people die even after early detection
The study have successfully explained that even early detection may fail to save lives as by the time tumours are detectable, cancer cells may have spread and formed fatal metastases at distant sites. In metastasis - responsible for over 90% of cancer related deaths - cancer cells break away from primary cancer region and travel through the blood or lymph system to form new tumours (metastatic tumours).
Study explains, why traditional methods fail
“Biologically , this new model of early metastasis challenges everything we thought we knew about how cancer spreads and forms metastasis,“ said Dr Julio Aguirre-Ghiso of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, who led one of the new studies. The study findings also give explanation as why targeted drugs often fail to keep patients alive for much longer. According to the study explanation, these conventional methods even if they kill a primary tumour or disable the molecular mechanisms that spur proliferation, early spread cancer cells would escape these therapies.