11:23pm Thursday 21 September 2017

A protein that prevents cancer cells lodging in other organs has been detected


The researcher Alejandro Barrallo-Gimeno, from the Department of Physiological Sciences II at the Faculty of Medicine, participated in the study.

A focus of cancer spreads to other organs because cells undergo a process known as epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in which cancer cells become mobile and invasive, and begin to travel through the bloodstream. However, to re-anchor to a new organ or tissue they should recover their initial characteristics, that is, lose mobility.

The research has found that the transition from mobile to stationary cancer cells involves the loss of its component Prrx1. Tumours with high amounts of Prrx1 have therefore a better prognosis, since they cannot form metastases. The results have been obtained by studying several animal models: chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus), zebrafish (Danio rerio) and mouse (Mus musculus), and an analysis of patient samples.

The study was led by the researcher Ángela Nieto, from the CSIC Institute of Neuroscience-Miguel Hernández University, and had the collaboration of Àngels Fabra, researcher at IDIBELL, centre that, like the Faculty of Medicine of the UB, is affiliated with the HUBc, the health campus of the UB.


O. H. Ocaña, R. Córcoles, A. Fabra, G. Moreno-Bueno, H. Acloque, S. Vega, A. Barrallo-Gimeno, A. Cano, M. A. Nieto. “Metastatic colonization requires the repression of the epithelial-mesenchymal transition inducer Prrx1”. Cancer Cell, 27th November 2012. Doi: 10.1016/j.ccr.2012.10.012

Universitat de Barcelona

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