The Molecule That Stops Cancer From Spreading

Image by Reed Weimer-Creative Commons license
Image by Reed Weimer-Creative Commons license

While cancer sometimes feels like a curse on humanity, when isolated to a single organ it's become increasingly treatable. Often, the problem comes when a cancer spreads, because it makes removing it far more difficult—but now scientists have discovered a molecule that might encourage cancer to remain in just the tissue it originally affects.

Called the "flightless" molecule—named after the effect it has on fruit flies—it increases the "stickiness" of cells, including cancerous ones, which makes them attach more readily to underlying tissue. In turn, it encourages cancer cells to stick where they are—and not spread through the body. Christopher McCulloch, one of the researchers, explains:

"The study of flightless and its role in the control of cell movement offers the promise of developing new drugs and treatments to control diseases in which cell movement has gotten out of control. We hope that one day treatments to regulate cell movement could be used to bring under better control the spread of cancer cells from a tumor into the rest of the body."

The research, which is published in The FASEB Journal, studied three different cell types which were all modified to produce differing amounts of the flightless molecule. Those that produced most moved away from tissue they were connected to much more slowly than those that produced less, or none.

If the researchers can take the newfound understanding and develop it into a drug, it could allow cancer sufferers to stop the spread of the disease around their body. In turn, that could massively increase survival chances. No pressure, guys.