Tumors Form Advance Teams to Ready Lungs for Cancer Spread

English: Lung metastases.
Lung metastases. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Who Knew? We now hear that an advance team of molecules produced by a primary tumor sets off a series of events to create a network of nurturing blood vessels for the arriving primary tumor cells to set up shop.

Here’s How It Works: We know that the formation of a spot in the lungs for spreading cancer cells to settle (metastasize). Investigators from the University of Pennsylvania (USA) found that a signaling molecule (calcineurin) up-regulates another molecule (Ang-2) that promotes the required development of blood vessels (angiogenesis). The calcineurin is activated specifically in lung tissue prior to the detection of cancer cells that preferentially metastasize to the lung (at lease in mice!).  Also, increased VEGF levels specifically in the lung (and not other organs) triggers a threshold amoiunt of calcineurin signaling that activates theAng2 gene in the lung tissue.

My Take: These findings may help to shed light on the mechanisms of cancer spread (metastasis), including the tendencies of certain tumor types to spread to particular organs (for example, prostate cancer to bones; melanoma to the brain). I’m Dr. Michael Hunter, and that’s your basic science insight into cancer.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad:  Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minuteable now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

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