Putting the brakes on metastatic cancer
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IMAGE: John Lewis (third left) and his research team say the 11 genes they discovered are widely involved in cancer cell metastasis and are not unique to any one type of… view more 

Credit: Melissa Fabrizio

A groundbreaking discovery by University of Alberta researchers has identified previously-unknown therapeutic targets that could be key to preventing the spread of cancer.

In a new study published in Nature Communications, the team found that by inhibiting several newly identified gene targets they could block more than 99.5 per cent of cancer metastasis in living cells.

“The potential significance is incredible,” said John Lewis, the Alberta Cancer Foundation Frank and Carla Sojonky Chair in Prostate Cancer Research at the U of A and a member of the Cancer Research Institute of Northern Alberta (CRINA). “Metastasis kills 90 per cent of all patients with cancer. With this study we have discovered 11 new ways to potentially end metastasis.”

In the study, the team used a unique platform it created–a shell-less avian embryo–to visualize the growth and spread of cancer cells in real time. The researchers used a molecular tool called a knockout library to insert short hairpin RNA (shRNA) vectors into cancer cells, which

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