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Cancer is one of the most feared illnesses, which largely has to do with the fact that we have not figured out how to eradicate it. However, we now know more about cancer than we ever did before, and this means we are closer than ever to beating it, thanks to scientific research.

Speaking of scientific research, scientists recently made an important discovery regarding the mechanisms that cancer cells leverage to spread to different organs. The cancerous cells can achieve this by masquerading as regular cells or by actually hijacking the cells. They use this mechanism to grow and spread to other organs. However, it goes deeper than that.

Taking advantage of the neuron signaling pathways

Rockefeller’s team recently discovered that cells in lung and breast cancers metastasize by hijacking the neural signaling pathways. They achieve this through blood vessels in the lungs and breasts to travel from the original tumor to other body organs through the bloodstream. The research findings published in a science journal called Nature point out that the recent discovery might present some breakthroughs against cancer. A deeper understanding of the mechanism will allow researchers to come up with new strategies for cancer diagnosis, as well as treatment.

In studies, scientists observed that lung cancer and breast cancer cells use the complex mechanism of hijacking blood vessels and tricking them into producing a protein called SLIT2. The latter provides the signal that cancer cells need to detach from the original tumor and then migrate to other parts of the body. The cells achieve this by triggering silenced DNA, which then produces double-stranded RNA that triggers the cell’s exodus from the primary tumor.

Scientists speculate that they could use molecules such as Slit2 to determine whether cancer cells have migrated from the primary tumor to other organs in the body. They also speculate that understanding these mechanisms could be the gateway to developing drugs that can block cancer pathways to spread to other organs. Such an approach would potentially give cancer patients a better chance of survival.