Premature cell ageing may contribute to tumour progression

Ø  The study carried out with the support of the Spanish Association Against Cancer (AECC), indicates that senescence, or the premature ageing of tumour cells, could increase the aggressiveness of neighbouring cells.

A study conducted by the Growth Factors Group at the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO), headed by Joaquín Arribas, Director of Preclinical Research at VHIO, has concluded that cells which age prematurely within a tumour are not as innocuous as previously thought. The results of the study, recently published in the Cancer Research journal, suggest that, contrary to common belief, senescent cells render other cells more malignant with a greater capacity for metastasis.

The study focused on breast cancer cells in which the HER2 oncogene is activated. A phenomenon occurs in these cells known as senescence, whereby the cells receive an order to stop dividing and start premature ageing, leading to cell death. Up until now, this was believed to be a tumour control mechanism. “This study reveals new data and shows that although these cells embark on a process of cell death, they cause neighbouring cells to become more malignant. These cells continue to be active in the tumour and secrete a large number of cellular factors which facilitates the capacity to metastasize”, explains Joaquín Arribas.

One of the conclusions of this study, according to Arribas, is that “it is essential to take therapeutic action against these cells, since waiting for them to die entails making the neighbouring cells more aggressive”. This means that the secretion of harmful cellular factors needs to be stopped. “There are many factors involved, and trying to halt their secretions individually makes no sense, while considering inhibiting the secretory pathway of these toxic factors therapeutically, however, does”, explains Pier-Davide Angelini, a VHIO researcher at VHIO and the first-named author of this study.

For further information, please contact:

Amanda Wren

Communication Manager

Vall d’Hebron Institut d’Oncologia (VHIO)

Tel. +34 695 207886

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