New drug set to stop cancer metastasis


Rebecca Pool

Friday, January 11, 2019 - 13:00
SEM image of circulating tumour cells [M Oeggerli/Micronaut 2018]
A stunning electron microscopy image of circulating tumour cells highlights breakthrough metastatic cancer research and features on the cover of the latest issue of Cell.
The digitally coloured high resolution SEM image was produced by science photographer, Martin Oeggerli, who was invited to contribute an image to accompany the publication of research from Switzerland-based researchers. 
The image shows a cluster of circulating tumour cells isolated from the blood of a patient with breast cancer, trapped on a microfluidic device.
Circulating tumour cells can be found in the blood of patients as single cells or cell clusters; CTC clusters are the precursors of metastases. [M Oeggerli / Micronaut 2018, supported by Pathology-, C-CINA / Biozentrum-, and I Krol, and N Aceto, Faculty of Medicine-, University Hospital and University Basel.
Crucially, the researchers from the University Hospital and the University of Basel have identified a drug that suppresses the spread of malignant cancer cells and their metastasis-seeding ability.
Professor Nicola Aceto from the Department of Biomedicine at the University of Basel, and colleagues, have discovered that the drug has the unexpected ability to dissociate patient-derived CTC clusters, preventing the formation of new metastases.
"Our ambitious approach would not have been possible without collaboration with outstanding clinicians, molecular and computational biologists, and with the support of state-of-the-art technology platforms," says Aceto.
"We are already working on the next step, which is to conduct a clinical trial with breast cancer patients," he adds.
  • The development of metastasis is responsible for more than 90% of cancer-related deaths, and patients with a metastatic disease are currently considered incurable.
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