Molecular pathway responsible for the growth of cancer cells have been identified by researchers.
The finding could lead to a new way to treat aggressive types of cancer.
The scientists have found that a molecule called Met is responsible for stimulating the growth and spread of cancer because it is relocating to the wrong part of the cell.
Experiments in the lab suggested that moving Met molecules from the inside of the cell to the cell surface could halt the growth of cancer cells and even cause tumours to shrink.
Met molecules are involved in the growth of cells in the human body but they are usually only active in a growing embryo or in wound-healing.
However, Met has also been found in many different types of tumours, including breast and lung cancers, where cells are growing uncontrollably.
And tumours with high levels of Met tend to be the most aggressive.
"Previous research has indicated that Met has a role in the development of cancer. We've made a fascinating discovery that, in some cancer cells, this molecule is not only present but it's located in the wrong part of the cell - it would normally be on the outside of the cell and we've found it on the inside," said Stephanie Kermorgant, the study's lead author.
"Our study shows that it's not only the presence of the molecule but also where it is in the cell that may promote cancer. We've also shown that we may be able to take advantage of this discovery to design new types of drugs," he said.
The finding was published in the journal Nature Cell Biology.