SHAFAQNA- SCIENTISTS have identified 23 new genes that could help stop the spread of cancer, they revealed today.
The genes could provide a target for new drugs to halt the disease in its tracks.
Targeting just one of the genes – known as Spns2 – led to a three-quarters reduction in the spread of a tumour, the experts at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute discovered.
Dr Justine Alford, Cancer Research UK’s senior science information officer, said: “This study in mice gives a new insight into the genes that play a role in cancer spreading and may highlight a potential way to treat cancer in the future.
“Cancer that has spread is tough to treat, so research is such as this is vital in the search for ways to tackle this process.”
The spread of tumours, also known as metastasis, to other parts of the body is the leading cause of death for cancer patients.
Up to 90 per cent of deaths are due to the disease invading other organs.
However, the process by which the disease is able to move through the body is poorly understood by scientists.
To find out which genes in the body could control the spread of cancer, the researchers looked at how tumours spread in genetically engineered mice, that were missing specific genes.
This study in mice gives a new insight into the genes that play a role in cancer spreading and may highlight a potential way to treat cancer in the future
They screened for 810 genes and their findings, published in Nature, identified 23 that either increased or decreased the spread of skin cancer cells to the lungs.
Many of the genes were also found to alter the immune system – changing the body’s ability to fight infection.
The researchers found that by removing the Spns2 gene, they saw the biggest change.
It reduced the spread of tumours to the lungs by around four times.
They then looked at the gene’s effect of the spread of other cancers from colon, lung and breast.
And they found the same results, removing it, reduced the metastasis of these forms of the disease.
Dr David Adams from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, said: “Loss of the Spns2 gene causes the greatest reduction in the formation of tumour colonies and represents a novel therapeutic target.