Cancer is, after cardiovascular diseases, the second leading cause of death among the population of the world. This high mortality is due to the ability of cancer cells to migrate and invade other organs, the so-called ‘metastasis’. According to a study conducted by researchers at Duke University in Durham, the US, it is possible to early know whether or not a tumor will form a metastasis by studying the genetic information in the cells that form the tumors.
“In our work, we have found evidence that benign and malignant tumors start differently and that cell movement, which is a very important characteristic of malignancy, already occurs in the early stages of tumors,” said Marc D. Ryser, the leading author of the study.
In order to prevent tumors progression to an advanced or ‘metastatic’ stage of cancer, the detection of any tumoral mass invariably entails aggressive cancer treatments. All that despite the significant damage to health, especially in the form of side effects, associated with aggressive therapies.
Genetic information imprinted in the cells that form tumors dictates whether they metastasize or not
In this context, recent studies have shown that many of the characteristics of some advanced stages of human cancers were already ‘imprinted’ on the genome of the tumor cells.
A discovery that, according to the authors of this study, offers the possibility of discovering, since in the early stages of cancer, whether or not a tumor will progress to a metastatic phase. Thus, the premise would be that malignant tumors are not ‘made’ but are already ‘born’ with their malignancy.
The authors used genetic sequencing techniques and computer models to analyze the characteristics of 19 colorectal tumors, 15 of which had already metastasized. They found that in most of these tumors there were molecular signs of very early ‘abnormal’ cell movement. An important aspect because this cellular movement is absolutely necessary for tumors to spread throughout the body.
The scientists concluded that the final development of tumors (whether they metastasize or not) depends to a large extent on the genetic information imprinted within the cells that form the tumors.