Finding the key to cancer metastasis

The capacity of cancer cells to spread throughout the body and invade new tissues — to become metastatic — makes them deadly. What makes metastatic cells different?

Scientists at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University have developed a technique for isolating individual cells displaying metastatic behavior out of a large group in culture.

The idea of precision medicine is based on the observation that cancer cells in two different people may respond differently to treatment, based on the mutations that drive the cells' growth, even though they may come from the same organ and even look similar under the microscope.

Winship researchers are extending that concept to highlight how even in a single tumor, not all the cells are the same. Some may divide or migrate faster than others. A few cells might survive chemotherapy that kills the rest.

The isolation technique developed by cell biologist, Adam Marcus and CB graduate student Jessica Konen seeks to probe these differences in cellular behavior. Dr. Marcus is also a faculty member in the BCDB and CB programs.

This approach is expected to yield new insights into cancer cell biology, which may lead to new treatments that hamper metastasis.

Click here to view the full story in the Emory News Center.