Magazine article Science News

Cancer Cells Caught in the (Metastatic) Act

Magazine article Science News

Cancer Cells Caught in the (Metastatic) Act

Article excerpt

Despite thorough surgical excisions and ever more sophisticated radiation and drug treatments, some cancer cells manage to get away from physicians trying to destroy them. Tumor cells that escape capture or destruction can spread to other parts of the body and start cancer anew.

Now, scientists have caught this process, called metastasis, on videotape. The images call into question theories about why refugee cancer cells settle where they do, and they offer researchers a new way to study potential treatments, says Ann F. Chambers, an experimental oncologist at the London (Ontario) Regional Cancer Center.

Most scientists study metastasis by injecting tumor cells into mice and then, weeks later, examining the tumors that form. But working with biophysicist Alan C. Groom and his colleagues at the University of Western Ontario in London, Chambers can monitor the process as it occurs.

To do this, the researchers put an anesthetized mouse on a fluorescence microscope stage positioned over the instrument's optics. They cut open the mouse and pull out the still-attached and functioning liver, lung, or muscle to be studied. Fiber-optic filaments placed at a 45 [degrees] angle to the stage light the specimen and make possible a three-dimensional view of the tissue, says Chambers.

With a video camera tuned to red wavelengths of light, the researchers record injected cancer cells as they course through the organ's blood vessels. Dye in the cells makes them fluoresce.

Typically, researchers depict cancer cells as settling in blood vessels larger than the cells themselves and sticking there because of special adhesion molecules. …

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