MD Anderson Research Highlights for November 3, 2021

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Research Highlights provides a glimpse into recently published studies in basic, translational and clinical cancer research from MD Anderson experts. Current advances include the cost-effectiveness of expanded lung cancer screening criteria, a novel biomarker for predicting immunotherapy responses, development of a technique for multiplex single-cell chromatin profiling, combination immunotherapy for bone metastatic prostate cancer, understanding drivers of lung cancer metastasis, and enabling new T cell therapies for treating COVID-19.

Experimental Model of Ovarian Cancer Shows Effect of Healthy Cell Arrangement in Metastasis

A key element to slowing metastasis in ovarian cancer is understanding the mechanisms of how tumor cells invade tissues. In APL Bioengineering, biophysics researchers explain how microscopic defects in how healthy cells line up can alter how easily ovarian cancer cells invade tissue. Using an experimental model, the group found that disruptions in the normal cellular layout, called topological defects, affect the rate of tumor cell invasion.

Small Numbers of Cells in a Tumor Could Be Key Enablers of Cancer Metastasis

Just a small number of cells found in tumors can enable and recruit other types of cells nearby, allowing the cancer to spread to other parts of the body, report Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center scientists. Working with their research collaborators, the scientists found that ‘enabler cells’ comprise about 20 percent or less of the cells in an aggressive tumor; their small numbers may account for why they are often missed when bulk tissue analyses are used to inform therapeutic decisions.

Ludwig Cancer Research Study Shows Pancreatic Cancer Cells Hit Reverse to Advance in Malignancy

A Ludwig Cancer Research study has identified a previously unrecognized mechanism by which cancer cells of a relatively benign subtype of pancreatic tumors methodically revert—or “de-differentiate”—to a progenitor, or immature, state of cellular development to spawn highly aggressive tumors that are capable of metastasis to the liver and lymph nodes.

Mount Sinai Researcher Receives NCI Grant to Study New Strategies to Prevent Cancer Metastasis

The Tisch Cancer Institute at Mount Sinai has been awarded a $1.9 million grant by the National Cancer Institute for an innovative study that will explore the mechanisms that enable tumor cells to spread from their original site but remain dormant for some time before becoming metastatic and threatening the lives of patients.

Scientists discover novel drug target for pancreatic cancer

Scientists at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute have uncovered a novel drug target, a protein called PPP1R1B, that stops the deadly spread of pancreatic cancer, called metastasis, when inhibited in mice. Published in Gastroenterology, the findings are a first step toward a potential treatment for one of the deadliest cancers known today.

Breast Cancer Cells Can Reprogram Immune Cells to Assist in Metastasis

Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center investigators report they have uncovered a new mechanism by which invasive breast cancer cells evade the immune system to metastasize, or spread, to other areas of the body. They propose that therapies targeting this process could be developed to halt or prevent metastasis and reduce breast cancer deaths.

Breast cancer cells turn killer immune cells into allies

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have discovered that breast cancer cells can alter the function of immune cells known as Natural killer (NK) cells so that instead of killing the cancer cells, they facilitate their spread to other parts of the body. The study, which will be published July 9 in the Journal of Cell Biology (JCB), suggests that preventing this reprogramming might stop breast cancer from metastasizing to other tissues, a major cause of death in breast cancer patients.

Predicting Cancer Behavior Requires Better Understanding of Tumor Cells

Our ability to predict who will get cancer, how patients will respond to treatment, or if patients will relapse is still quite limited, despite advances in the detection of genetic mutations and the establishment of risk factors; recently researchers were inspired to find new ways of looking at the problem. In Biomicrofluidics, they report that using cellular mechanophenotyping, along with traditional methods such as immunostaining and genetic analysis, may provide a more comprehensive view of a tumor.

Continued nicotine use promotes brain tumors in lung cancer patients, Wake Forest study suggests

Researchers at Wake Forest School of Medicine have discovered that nicotine promotes the spread of lung cancer cells into the brain, where they can form deadly metastatic tumors. The study, which will be published June 4 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine (JEM), suggests that nicotine replacement therapies may not be suitable strategies for lung cancer patients attempting to quit smoking. In addition, the researchers show that the naturally occurring drug parthenolide blocks nicotine-induced brain metastasis in mice, suggesting a potential therapeutic option in humans.

Using new genomic technology, UCI researchers discover breast cancer cells shift their metabolic strategy in order to metastasize

New discovery in breast cancer could lead to better strategies for preventing the spread of cancer cells to other organs in the body, effectively reducing mortality in breast cancer patients.
According to a study, published today in Nature Cell Biology, breast cancer cells shift their metabolic strategy in order to metastasize. Instead of cycling sugar (glucose) for energy, they preferentially use mitochondrial metabolism.