January 22, 2014

The C-word is a dirty, dirty word that every single person dreads hearing. Cancer touches every family at some point (or so it seems), so the effort put forth to finding a “cure” for cancer is huge. Today’s image is from a very exciting paper that shows how specific cells in a breast tumor lead the charge towards invasion. 

The spread of cancer, or metastasis, can occur either through the invasion of single tumor cells into nearby tissue or by collective invasion of several cells as a cohesive unit. A recent paper from Andy Ewald’s lab at Johns Hopkins describes the identification of cells involved in collective invasion, using a 3D assay of primary breast tumors invading other tissue. Kevin Cheung and colleagues found that in mouse breast cancer models and diverse human breast tumors, the cells leading the invasion charge are distinct from the bulk tumor cells, and express the basal epithelial genes cytokeratin-14 (K14) and p63. Additionally, knockdown of either K14 or p63 could block collective invasion in advanced carcinomas. In the images above, leading invasive cells express K14 (middle image, green) and are distinct from the bulk of the mouse mammary tumor.

BONUS!! For a great “Out of the Box” description of these very cool results, click here.

Kevin J. Cheung, Edward Gabrielson, Zena Werb, Andrew J. Ewald (2013).  Collective Invasion in Breast Cancer Requires a Conserved Basal Epithelial Program.  Cell, 15 (7), 1639–1651. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2013.11.029  Copyright ©2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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