Severed cell ‘ties’ aid the spread of lung cancer, scientists reveal

Researchers from the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute at the University of Manchester (UK) have discovered that lung cancer cells exhibit severed protein ‘ties’, that usually act to hold cells together. As a result of these severed ties, these cancer cells can break loose and invade other areas of the body. The results of the study were published recently in the journal Cell Reports.

The protein ties that hold cells together are controlled by a protein termed TIAM1. When problems arise in cell maintenance these ties can break. In healthy cells, old cell parts are recycled and used again; however in lung cancer cells, too many TIAM1 ties are broken. The research findings suggest that targeting this recycling process to prevent the breakdown of TIAM1 ties could prevent lung cancer metastasis.

Lead researcher Angeliki Malliri of the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute commented: “This important research shows for the first time how lung cancer cells sever ties with their neighbors and start to spread around the body, by hijacking the cells’ recycling process and sending it into overdrive. Targeting this flaw could help stop lung cancer from spreading.”

Nell Barrie from Cancer Research UK further commented: “Lung cancer causes more than one in five of all cancer deaths in the UK and it’s vital that we find effective new treatments to fight the disease and save more lives.”

Barrie continued: “Early-stage research like this is essential to find treatments which could one day block cancer spread – which would be a game changer. It’s also crucial that we find ways to diagnose the disease earlier, when treatment is more likely to be successful and the cancer is less likely to have spread.”

The results of the study reveal a mechanism of cancer cell invasion that could be applicable to other cancer research. Further understanding of TIAM1 regulatory networks may shed light on a potential therapeutic approach to prevent lung cancer metastasis in many patients.

Source: Vaughan L, Tan CT, Chapman A et al. HUWE1 Ubiquitylates and Degrades the RAC Activator TIAM1 Promoting Cell-Cell Adhesion Disassembly, Migration, and Invasion. Cell Reports, DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2014.12.012 (2014); Cancer Research UK press release