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Hope for cancer cell “anchors”

Research that may prevent cancer cells spreading through the body is to be presented at the National Cancer Research Institute conference in Birmingham.

It centres on integrins, which anchor both healthy and cancer cells their ‘home’ tissue or organ and which can be destabilised by faults in the p53 protein.

Faulty p53 switches on the Rab-coupling protein (RCP) pathway cell-signalling system, which interferes with the normal delivery route of integrins to the cell’s surface.

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The ‘sticky’ integrins then work differently, allowing the cells to move around the body rather than remaining anchored in their home tissue or organ.

Says Professor Jim Norman, from Cancer Research UK’s Beatson Institute in Glasgow: “These results could lead to the development of new potential targets for future drugs to stop cancer spread.

“While it may be some time before such drugs are available, there are clinical trials already in progress to test whether drugs that block integrins can be used to treat cancer – but now we know p53 plays a key role in changing the way integrin behaves to drive cancer spread.”

Copyright Press Association 2009

National Cancer Research Institute