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Volume 572 Issue 7771, 29 August 2019

Cancer deconstructed

When cancer cells migrate from their primary site to a secondary location in the body, they can induce the healthy cells immediately around them to create an environment — a metastatic niche — that promotes tumour formation. So far, it has proved challenging to identify the cellular processes that take place in the niche in the early stages of cancer spread. In this week’s issue, Ilaria Malanchi and her colleagues present a technique that can probe the niche’s composition. The researchers have developed a cell-penetrating fluorescent protein that is taken up by neighbouring cells. By engineering cancer cells to express this protein, the team was able to study the properties of healthy cells in a metastatic niche at early-stage metastasis. Metastatic niche analysis over time can provide a view of the changing cell composition surrounding the cancerous cells. This is illustrated on the cover by a view of metastatic breast cancer cells (yellow) that have passed the fluorescent protein to surrounding healthy cells of the niche (red), to distinguish them from non-neighbouring tissue cells (white).

Cover image: Luigi Ombrato/Ilaria Malanchi

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