Loss of Biological Ties
Cells normally possess a molecular glue (adhesion molecules) which keeps them together via specific junctions. Cancer cells seem to have lost this "molecular glue" which allows them to travel to other tissues to form metastases, the life threatening off shoots of cancer cells. In recent years, molecular and cell biologist have discovered various molecular structures that play a crucial role in this cell adhesion and other molecules which are associated with the development of metastasis. In addition, tumour suppressor genes have been identified which prevent cells from being transformed into cancer cells. They also participate in setting up cell junctions. On the other hand, oncogenes - genes that have been genetically altered and are able to induce cancerogenesis - destabilize cell junctions. These new findings suggest that tumour suppressor gene products also seem to play an important role in controlling invasive processes and the development of metastasis, cell biologist Walter Birchmeier, Professor at the MAX DELBRÜCK CENTER FOR MOLECULAR MEDICINE (MDC) BERLIN-BUCH, told an audience of more than 200 scientists at a meeting on "Complex Genetic Diseases" at the MDC in Berlin-Buch.