Professor Philip Rudland, Dr Guozheng Wang and Dr Roger Barraclough from the University's Cancer and Polio Research Fund Laboratories have discovered a new gene that causes the spread of cancer. An additional member of the S100 family of protein genes, S100P is the main cause for the spread of cancerous cells from an original tumor to other parts of the body. If S100P is present it trigger the rapid spread of cancerous secondary tumors to other tissues in the body via the bloodstream. This process is known as metastasis.
The main disadvantage is that primary tumors can be removed surgically, but secondary tumors are more difficult to control. The research was funded by the Cancer and Polio Research Fund. The other metastasis genes that have been discovered are S100A4, osteopontin, and AGR2. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are the only ways to treat secondary tumors. But these procedures also cause damage to other healthy tissue and do not always succeed in eradicating the cancer completely. S100P is commonly found in ten different types of normal tissue including the placenta, spleen, colon, ovary, prostate, lung and heart.
Scientists believe that the function of this protein S100P in healthy tissues is to increase the movement of white blood cells around the body. But in case they are present in a cancerous tumor it causes the tumor to spread to other tissues. Professor Rudland said that this paves way to the early death of the cancer patient. These genes are common and found in most common cancers, including breast, lung and colon. Hence at present the concern is to develop drugs that will switch off the action of these genes and therefore improve the chances of survival for the cancer patients.