One of the most important characteristics of a disease is the way it spreads, either to other people or inside the body of the patient. Some of the most common medical conditions that belong to the first category are the sexually transmitted diseases while, perhaps, the most “famous” member of the second one is cancer.
The medical term used for the spread of a tumor to other parts of the human body is “metastasis”, a word derived from the Greek language meaning “next station”. Once a metastasis is completed, the work of doctors becomes much more difficult since there are now more than one sources of cancer cells and there is only a certain dosage of drugs and treatments that a patient can endure. However, a recent breakthrough may finally offer medical experts a chance to block the spread of cancer in other parts of the patient’s body.
A team consisting of scientists and researchers from both the Max Planck Institute of Germany and the Goethe University of Frankfurt managed to observe and document the way cancer cells spread by using the bloodstream.
According to the findings, metastases (cells originating from the original tumor) are able to attack a specific molecule called Death Receptor 6 allowing them to insert themselves into blood vessels. That way, they can be transferred to a different part of the body.
In order to achieve that, cancer focus on destroying cells that exist in the inner part of the vessels’ surface and trigger a procedure that has been named ‘necroptosis’ which, in simple terms, translates to a programmed death of a cell.
It goes without saying that disabling Death Receptor 6 is the primary target of researchers since this seems like our best shot at blocking the formation of new tumors. This is extremely important since the statistics and studies show that a very large percentage of deaths caused by cancer have its spread being the fact that ended the patient’s life.
Even though this method has only been tested on mice and cells grown in the lab so far, its success is extremely important and offers much hope. The next step is discovering and studying any possible side effects that may be triggered by disabling the Death Receptor 6.
Acknowledging that cancer is an extremely complicated disease that will be very tough to defeat once and for all is the first thing that all medical examiners and researchers should keep in mind.