Cancer Care through Early Detection & Intervention: NFCR

Cancer Metastasis

Cancer Metastasis

What is Cancer Metastasis?

Metastasis, the spread of cancer cells from the primary tumor to distant sites in the body, is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths. Developing treatments to prevent or inhibit metastasis is a critical goal in improving patient outcomes.

The metastatic process involves multiple steps, including local invasion, intravasation into blood or lymphatic vessels, survival during transit, extravasation into new tissue, and colonization at distant sites. Cancer cells undergo phenotypic changes and interact with the tumor microenvironment to facilitate each step.

NFCR-Supported Researchers Working on Cancer Metastasis

Paul Schimmel, Ph.D.
Scripps Research

Xiang-Lei Yang, Ph.D. Scripps Research

Xiang-Lei Yang, Ph.D. 
Scripps Research

Daniel A. Haber, M.D., Ph.D.
Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center

Esther Rheinbay, Ph.D.
Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, Harvard Medical School

Danny R. Welch, Ph.D.
University of Kansas Cancer Center

Isidore Rigoutsos, Ph.D.
University Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center

Kornelia Polyak Portrait

Kornelia Polyak, M.D., Ph.D
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School

Valerie M. Weaver, Ph.D
University of California San Francisco

Ronald A. DePinho, M.D.
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

Paul Fisher, M.Ph., Ph.D.

Paul Fisher, M.Ph., Ph.D.
Virginia Commonwealth University

Francesca Bersani, Ph.D.

Francesca Bersani, Ph.D.
University of Torino, Italy

Aditya Bardia, M.D.

Aditya Bardia, M.D.
Massachusetts General Hospital & Harvard Medical School

Darren Carpizo, M.D., Ph.D.

Darren Carpizo, M.D., Ph.D.
University of Rochester

Igor Astsaturov, M.D., Ph.D.

Igor Astsaturov, M.D., Ph.D.
Fox Chase Cancer Center

Webster K. Cavenee, Ph.D.
Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research

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Early Detection Tools Saving Time and Saving Lives

A new test can identify a range of cancers in patients with non-specific symptoms. One of the most troubling things about cancer is the time it can take to reach a diagnosis if the symptoms are not clear-cut. While some cancers are easy to identify and test for, some patients spend months battling symptoms such as fatigue and weight loss before the correct tests are ordered. A University of Oxford study recently highlighted a new type of blood test that can detect a range of cancers and whether these cancers have spread (metastasized) in the body. This test will allow patients to access treatment faster.  The study analyzed samples from 300 patients with non-specific but concerning cancer symptoms, such as fatigue and weight loss, to determine whether this new testing method could identify patients with a range of solid tumors from those without cancer. After successfully testing animal models, the researchers were pleased to see that the success was transferable to humans.  Study Results The results show that this test correctly detected cancer in 19 out of every 20 patients and 94% accuracy in identifying metastasis. These results make this test the first technology able to determine the metastatic status of cancer from a simple blood test without prior knowledge of the primary cancer type. Study Impact The ability to detect cancers earlier means patients are more likely to have successful treatment outcomes. This rapid and inexpensive test could help overcome many barriers to the early detection of cancer, especially in patients with non-specific symptoms, which do not direct investigations toward a specific organ and rare cancers. These game-changing findings exhilarate cancer experts across the globe. The high success rates of this study suggest that medical professionals will soon be able to accurately, timely, and cost-effectively diagnose patients with suspected cancer. This development will save patients time, money, and – most importantly – their lives. While these findings are exciting, the tests are not yet widely available. Future studies with larger patient cohorts must further evaluate this technique for the earlier detection of new cancers and potential clinical applications. Accelerating Promising Cancer Research Discoveries like these accelerate medical professionals towards finding a cure for cancers. The National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) proudly presents the Salisbury Award Competition, which helps oncology startups accelerate their findings to benefit the cancer community. This program offers a unique opportunity for other promising research deemed high-risk, high-impact ideas, a core value of NFCR.  If you would like to help accelerate cancer research technology and treatment, please make a gift today.  Additional Reads You May Enjoy:  WATCH: How NFCR Plans to Increase Its Impact for Cancer Patients Efficiently Eliminating Metastasized Melanoma Cells Research Highlight: Preventing Breast Cancer Brain Metastasis Stay connected with the cancer community! Receive NFCR’s monthly e-newsletter and blogs featuring stories of inspiration, support resources, cancer prevention tips, and more. Sign up here.

Controlling the Uncontrollable: HER2 Breast Cancer

It’s that time of year when pink ribbons begin appearing everywhere – from shopfronts to social media. These ribbons are known to be Breast Cancer Awareness ribbons. It’s no coincidence that pink ribbons are the most easily recognized as breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide. In fact, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.  Tragically, the likelihood of experiencing metastasis, or cancer that spreads to other parts of the body, is high amongst these patients. Understanding and preventing metastasis is crucial to increasing the survival rates of this disease. Thankfully, National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR)-funded researcher Dr. Rakesh K. Jain and his team are dedicated to exploring this phenomenon and recently unearthed a game-changing discovery.  Their mission: HER2 Dr. Jain and his team knew that genes contain the recipes for various proteins required for healthy cells to function properly and that some genes and proteins can influence how breast cancer behaves and responds to treatment. They were particularly interested in exploring how to control and inhibit metastasis in one particular gene related to breast cancer, the HER2 gene.  The HER2 (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2) gene makes HER2 proteins, which are receptors on breast cells. Typically, HER2 receptors help control how a healthy breast cell grows, divides, and repairs itself. But in about 10% to 20% of breast cancers, the HER2 gene doesn’t work correctly and makes too many copies of itself (known as HER2 gene amplification). These extra HER2 genes tell breast cells to make too many HER2 receptors which makes breast cells grow and divide in an uncontrolled way. Patients with metastatic HER2+ breast cancer often experience treatment resistance, disease recurrences, and metastases. Dr. Jain and his team believed that by modifying the tumor framework and increasing oxygenation in the tumor, it might be possible for an existing medication to improve the outcome of radiotherapy and inhibit disease progression in a highly metastatic HER2+ breast cancer. Their findings The team established a metastatic HER2+ breast cancer line and used it to generate a similar environment in mice. Three days after tumor implantation, Dr. Jain and his team administered seven days of Losartan, a drug mainly used to treat high blood pressure. In some mice, the research team followed the seven days of Losartan with 20 Gy single dose local irradiation on day 10. In a third group, they followed the seven days of Losartan with 20 Gy fractionated irradiation on days 10-14. For each group, the researchers analyzed the tumor-growth delay, development of metastases, survival rates, tumor density, and oxygen levels in the tumor.  Much to the excitement of cancer researchers worldwide, the combination of Losartan and local irradiation significantly enhanced tumor response. The tumors were deprived of oxygen, whereas healthy cells remained oxygen-rich. This finding suggests that combining Losartan with radiotherapy is a potential new treatment strategy for controlling and inhibiting metastasis in HER2+ breast cancer – a potentially life-saving discovery. Other exciting HER2 discoveries  HER2 has been a hot topic in the cancer world for years. In fact, Dr. Jain is just one of the NFCR-funded researchers paving the way to better treatment options related to HER2. Dr. […]

Combating Metastases

Any cancer that has spread to other parts of the body