A specific protein has been identified which is known to enable a process that causes cancerous cells to migrate from the site of the original tumor and causes it to spread to other locations in the body and cause new tumors to form.
This protein has been called disabled-2 (or Dab2).
It is a process called epithelial-mesenchymal transdifferientiation (EMT) which is seen to releasing epithelial cells from their position on the surface of an existing tumor. These cells are then transformed into transient mesenchymal cell. These transient mesenchymal cells can start the growth of a new tumor.
It is this EMT process that often proves fatal for cancer sufferers, particularly in pancreatic and colon-rectal cancers and breast or ovarian cancers. Now that Dab2 is identified, researchers were able to arrest this process of EMT by knocking out Dab2.
This breakthrough has been described by researcher Ge Jin as a “major piece in cancer research that has been missing”. The aim is now to design drugs to delay or halt EMT cells and control tumor progression.
This is also something that may have application for non cancer treatments; of other diseases. It is likely that this will lead to better understanding of the way in which other diseases progress as well.