Scientists at Harvard University have created a laboratory model using time-lapse video microscopic technology that allows observation of early stages of ovarian cancer metastasis.
"We were able to observe key molecular mechanisms that are necessary for the force-dependent processes associated with metastasis," said Joan Brugge, Ph.D., professor and chair of cell biology at Harvard University.
These findings are published in Cancer Discovery, the newest journal of the American Association for Cancer Research. According to Brugge, who served as program chairperson for the AACR 102nd Annual Meeting 2011, ovarian cancer cells spread throughout the peritoneum by attaching to the outer cell layer of organs in this area and then clearing away this layer of cells and embedding themselves on the organ, where they then proliferate and expand.
"The reason these tumors are so morbid is that the metastatic tumors grow large enough to interfere with the function of the organs in the peritoneum," she said.
By using the time-lapse video microscopic technique, Brugge and colleagues were able to visualize the detailed sequence of events associated with insertion of tumor cells into peritoneal monolayers in cell culture, and then determine that the mechanism involves tumor cells' use of force via alpha5 integrin, talin I and muscle myosin II.
"Theoretically, by targeting these molecules, it may be possible to prevent the formation of new metastatic tumors," said Brugge.