Spanish team discovers protein that sparks metastasis

Spanish team discovers protein that sparks metastasis

Barcelona’s IRB team makes breakthrough that appears to link fatty diet to some cancers

Metastasis means death to 90% of cancer patients. But thanks to the work of a team at Barcelona’s Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) we now have a better understanding of the process of metastasis by which a few cells break away from a tumor, creating new growths in other parts of the body.-reports the sapnish newspaper El País.

An article published in the journal Nature details how a team led by Salvador Aznar Benitah has identified a protein that plays a crucial role in metastasis and could improve diagnosis, revolutionize cancer treatment and even change our diet.

Aznar’s team are specialists in the type of stem cells found in tumors, the job of which is to boost their growth. By studying the behavior of these cells in human oral carcinoma, they found a sub-population that hardly divided and that presented similar characteristics to metastasis cells. Furthermore, the team was interested to note that the metabolisms of these cells were high in fat.

Using mice, the team decided to study the protein CD36, a molecule that transports fat and is found on the surface of these cells. “It is the door through which fatty acids from the outside come in, through diet or some other means,” says Aznar. CD36 has been found in metastasizing cells in other types of tumor, such as melanoma or breast cancer, and after carrying out statistical analysis on patient samples, they established the presence of CD36 in ovary, stomach, and lung cancers; and most importantly, when they added CD36 to tumor cells that had not metastasized, they began to do so.

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