It’s an unfortunate reality that, many times, even when oncology teams are able to target and kill active cancer cells, the patient may not be out of the woods — as cancer cells frequently spread, or metastasize. These cells may lie dormant for years, hiding within the bones, lymph nodes or other areas of the body — making effective treatment an ongoing challenge. However, a new research study has highlighted one approach that showed promising results for rooting out and killing cancer cells that are hiding in the body.
How Does Cancer Spread?
First, it’s important to understand, how does cancer spread or metastasize? Infected cancer cells can break away from the primary tumor and become insulated within healthy cells. These normal cells surrounding the tumor, known as the tumor microenvironment, can provide unfortunate protection for the surviving cancer cells. In their experiments with mice, the researchers found that these escaped cells were often clustered around blood vessels in an area called the perivascular niche.
In particular, the vessels’ endothelial cells were guarding the cancer cells, making them resistant to treatments like chemotherapy. The researchers also found molecules called integrins that were interacting with the endothelial cells. Integrins are a natural part of healing and are designed to protect cells — but that tendency may be helping infected cells continue to thrive and spread.
What’s Next for Cancer Researchers?
Using this data, researchers developed two antibodies designed to target the integrins. In mice that were administered only chemo, 75% experienced metastasis; however, those who were also treated with the anti-integrin antibodies had much more success, with only 22% of those mice seeing the cancer spread.
This approach has only been studied in mice so far, but researchers are optimistic that humans could eventually benefit from this type of treatment approach. Those involved with the studies have already started developing antibodies that could one day be used, in combination with chemo, to target integrins — and, hopefully, provide a strong defense against the spread of cancer.
Paying for Experimental Cancer Treatment
Life Credit is a licensed consumer lender dedicated to providing financial assistance for medical treatments and the indirect costs of cancer care. It possible for you to borrow against your life insurance policy and receive cash.
Have questions? Learn more about the Life Credit Living Benefit Loan Program.