An enzyme that affects the spread of cancer cells could provide a new target for therapy, say researchers in the US. Cancer cells spread through the body by hanging on to carbohydrate molecules on other, normal cells, and then letting go and moving on to the next cell. The composition of carbohydrates on the cells affects the balance between hanging on to neighbouring cells and letting go.
Researchers at the University of Georgia have found that an enzyme that affects cell surface carbohydrates is more highly expressed in cancer cells. The enzyme makes it easier for cells to let go of their neighbours and spread. So there's a potential for blocking this enzyme, known as GnT-V, with drugs and this may form the basis of a new therapy for stopping the spread of cancer cells. Test tube experiments do seem to suggest that inhibiting the enzyme blocks the invasion of cancer cells into neighbouring tissues.