How skin cancer moves: a simple explanation

Credit: Unsplash+.

Cancer is a nasty disease. One of the things that makes it so difficult to deal with is its ability to spread.

This is called metastasis.

In simple terms, metastasis happens when cancer cells leave the original tumor and travel to other parts of the body. Once there, these cells form new tumors.

This is a big problem because these new tumors can cause serious harm and are often the main reason why cancer can be fatal.

Melanoma skin cancer, which is a type of cancer that begins in the skin, is one of the cancers that spread the quickest.

How the Study Worked

A group of scientists at Barts Cancer Institute, which is part of Queen Mary University of London, decided to look into this problem.

They wanted to understand more about how these cancer cells are able to move and spread so quickly. They recently published their findings in a scientific journal called Nature Communications.

To do their study, they looked at how cancer cells move in a special model system.

This system lets them see the movement in three dimensions, which is a lot more like how cells move in the real world, compared to traditional models that only allow for movement in two dimensions.

They observed that the cancer cells have two ways of moving.

The first type of movement is called mesenchymal migration. This is a bit like crawling, where cells grab onto their surroundings and pull themselves forward. This requires a lot of energy.

The second type is called rounded-amoeboid migration, which is more like slithering. Here, the cells don’t grab onto anything. Instead, they squeeze themselves through the surrounding tissue. This requires less energy.

What They Found Out

The researchers noticed that the cancer cells that were able to spread, or metastasize, preferred the less energy-demanding movement style, the slithering-like one.

To achieve this, the cells had to make changes to their mitochondria, which are like the power plants of a cell.

In normal cells, the mitochondria are big and branch out like a network. They work in high-power mode.

But in the cancer cells that were able to spread, the mitochondria became small and fragmented. They worked in low-power mode.

The scientists discovered that making these changes made the cells much more efficient at moving around, which could help them to survive and spread.

Intriguingly, the researchers found out that if they forced the mitochondria in these cancer cells to become more joined up, like in normal cells, the cancer cells lost their ability to spread.

Conversely, if they made the mitochondria in normal cells more fragmented, those cells started to act more like cancer cells.

The Key Player: AMPK

The scientists also found a molecule called AMPK that seems to be in charge of these processes.

It’s like a control center that keeps an eye on the cell’s energy needs and also manages the cell’s internal structure, which determines how the cell moves and behaves.

What This Means for Us

These findings could be incredibly useful for coming up with new ways to prevent cancer from spreading.

If we can find a way to stop cancer cells from making these changes to their mitochondria, we might be able to stop them from spreading. This could lead to new treatments that can save lives.

If you care about skin health, please read studies that smoking could cause this chronic skin disease, and Vitamin B3 could help prevent skin cancers.

If you care about skin cancer, please read studies that low-carb diet could increase overall cancer risk, and vitamin D supplements strongly reduce cancer death.

The study was published in Nature Communications.

Copyright © 2023 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.