A group of scientists have identified a new mechanism whereby tumors develop.
The research team led by scientists at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) at the Montreal Children's Hospital believe that their finding may lead to an innovative treatment.
A team from the MUHC reveals a new mechanism involved in tumor development that could lead to an innovative treatment
Dr. Janusz Rak, whose group includes Dr. Khalid Al-Nedawi and Brian Meehan, has revealed that they have found a new mechanism that tumors use to stimulate the growth of the blood vessels that feed them.
Writing about their finding in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the researchers have also proposed a new way to control this process.
The researchers say that tumor cells can release "bubbles" called microvesicles, which allow the tumors to communicate with the endothelial cells of blood vessels and stimulate changes in their behaviour.
According to them, the microvesicles are armed with specific cancer proteins as they leave the tumor.
The team say that upon being taken up by endothelial cells, the specific cancer proteins that the microvesicles carry can trigger mechanisms that promote the abnormal formation of new blood vessels.
The vessels then grow towards the tumor and supply it with the nutrients it requires to grow, say the researchers.
"We had already demonstrated the existence of these vesicles as well as their importance in the communication process between cancer cells and their environment. But this new discovery is much more targeted and represents a new direction in terms of therapy," said Dr. Rak.
The researchers also observed that a family of molecules derived from annexin V appeared to effectively fight this process, and ultimately might help "starve" the tumor.
"The molecule we used is effective both in vitro and in vivo. It prevents the formation of new blood vessels in mice with cancer and therefore strongly inhibits tumor growth," said Dr. Rak.
The researcher said that the molecule called Diannexin acted to block the in vitro fusion of vesicles and endothelial cells.
While experimenting on mice, the researchers observed that Diannexin worked to slow blood vessel growth towards the tumor, resulting in anti-cancer effects.
They say that this finding attains significance as the treatment was applied in isolation without additional chemotherapy.
They believe that their approach may prove even more potent if combined with other agents.
Given that Diannexin is presently being developed as an antithrombotic medication, the researcher think that it would be possible to use it safely for different types of pathologies.