How signals get inside cancer cells and spur aggressive growth
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ANN ARBOR, Michigan — The outside of a cancer cell is bombarded by signals. They come from the immune system, supporting tissues and other structures. But how do those signals impact cancer?

A new study provides a surprising model of the process by which those signals enter and influence the cell. The finding could open up a potential new avenue to pursue new therapies against cancer.

“How those signals enter the inside of the cell influences major aspects of what makes a cell a cancer cell: its responses and its ability to respond by proliferating and moving. We have found a connection between the cancer cell ‘swallowing’ certain molecules and its ability to activate tumor suppressor genes,” says study author Sofia Merajver, M.D., Ph.D., professor of internal medicine and epidemiology at the University of Michigan.

Merajver’s lab at the Rogel Cancer Center worked with a Michigan Engineering team led by Allen Liu, Ph.D., and postdoctoral researcher Luciana Rosselli-Murai, Ph.D. They focused on a protein called clathrin, which impacts how metabolites, hormones and other proteins enter into a cell. Clathrin-coated pits form little indentations inwards on the surface of cells that fold in on themselves and internalize these molecules.

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