Scientists Learning to Outsmart Cancer Cells
Researchers have identified a novel mechanism to control the traffic of cells and fluid from tissues to lymphatic vessels. It may be possible to harness this mechanism to fight cancer spread from one organ to another organ and improve the effectiveness of vaccines.
With NIH funding, SLU scientists have found that molecules known as CRSBP-1 (also termed LYVE-1) ligands, which are a group of growth factors and cytokines, bind to CRSBP-1 receptors located on the surface of lymphatic vessels. This stimulates a response, and acts like a token to gain entry to the lymphatic vessel network. This mechanism for getting into the lymphatic system is used by many cancer cells.
"When the token binds to CRSBP-1, it opens the gate," said Wei-Hsien Hou, Ph.D., an M.D./Ph.D. student at the School of Medicine and lead author of a paper in the April 15 issue of the Journal of Cell Science.
"Our study is the first to identify a function for this protein," Hou said. "It's important because it gives us a new target to block metastasis, treat edema and enhance the effectiveness of vaccines by strengthening the body's immune responses."
The research team also found that that CRSBP-1 ligand molecules (PDGF-BB and VEGF-A) decrease edema in a mouse model by opening lymphatic intercellular junctions, allowing fluid to drain through the lymphatic network and causing swelling to go down.
Understanding how to gain access into the lymphatic network is significant and will have a strong impact in the fields of cancer and immune research, said Jung S. Huang, Ph.D., a study co-author, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and Hou's mentor. "Once you figure out how breast and other cancers spread, you can begin to work on blocking the process. This is very exciting," he said.