It seems that when some cells turn cancerous, their healthy neighbours can detect the transformation and eject the cells. Yasuyuki Fujita of University College London and his colleagues have identified signalling pathways that may drive this process.
Cultured canine kidney cells bearing the mutated Src cancer gene are squeezed out in a specific direction from a layer of normal cells (pictured left) but remain in place when surrounded by similar cancer cells (right). The authors pinpointed two proteins, myosin II and FAK, that are activated in the cancer cells when surrounded by normal cells and are involved in the cancer cells' ejection.
The authors say that the process prevents cancer cells from spreading around the body, because the cells are kicked out in the opposite direction to that required for such metastasis.
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Cancer biology: Kicking out cancer cells. Nature 463, 138 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1038/463138d