IMAGE: Dr. Maximilian Reichert investigates the formation of metastases of pancreatic cancer at the TUM university hospital rechts der Isar. view more
Pancreatic cancer often spreads, forming metastases in the liver or lungs. The prognosis is better for patients with metastases in the lungs. However, the organ that is more likely to be affected depends on the cancer cells’ ability to alter their characteristics and shape – as a research team at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has discovered.
Cells in a tissue or tumor establish contacts with other cells and assume a scale-like appearance. Cancer cells that form metastases, however, must first alter their shape and characteristics. They have to modify their metabolism and detach themselves from the cluster of cells making up the tumor. As a result, they become long and thin, which allows them to enter nearby blood vessels. They then use the bloodstream as a transport route to reach other organs and proliferate in tissue there.
The cells must then transform themselves once again. They have to re-establish contacts with other cells in order to cling to them, so to speak. Not all cancer cells possess this flexibility, technically known as plasticity. Dr Maximilian Reichert,
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