The researchers at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute discovered that the ties which lash cells together – controlled by a protein called TIAM1 – were chopped up when cell maintenance work goes wrong.
Healthy cells routinely scrap old cell parts so they could be broken down and used again. But this process spiraled out of control in lung cancer cells, which scraped too many TIAM1 ties.
Targeting this recycling process could stop lung cancer from spreading by keeping the cells stuck firmly together.
Lead researcher, Dr Angeliki Malliri, at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute at the University of Manchester, said that the research showed for the first time how lung cancer cells severed ties with their neighbours 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.