Ann Conkle
Jan 19, 2012

Engineering a switch to tame aggressive cancers

A new imaging platform is providing insight into the moment cancer cells turn deadly. Proteins, such as E-cadherin, are important for the maintenance of normal tissue structure. When tumors become aggressive, they often lose E-cadherin, resulting in dramatic changes in their ability to spread. When cancer cells are forced to express E-cadherin, research suggests they behave less aggressively, but there have been limitations in our ability to monitor these effects. The new imaging platform allows researchers to modulate and monitor the effects of a protein in real-time using a chick embryo implanted with cancer cells. "This accessible set-up allows us to introduce E-cadherin directly into the tumor environment, where it has immediate and dramatic effects," says Dr. Hon Leong, an author of the study. "Using 3D time-lapse imaging, the impact of this protein can be visualized and the subsequent effects on cancer cell structure, function and aggressiveness can be monitored in real time."