New Hope for Patients With Metastatic Colon Cancer

German researchers at Technische Universität München's (TUM) Klinikum rechts der Isar and Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen may have uncovered a potential new approach to cancer treatment. The research study was published in the journal Cancer Cell.

What Is Metastatic Colon Cancer?

Metastatic cancer occurs when the cancer has spread (or metastasized) to other organs in the body. Metastatic cancer is commonly found in the lungs, bones, and liver, but depending on the disease's origins in the body, may appear elsewhere. In the case of colon cancer (the focus of the study), the tumors usually spread to the liver, peritoneum, and lungs.

Some types of metastatic cancer can be cured but unfortunately, most cannot. According to the National Cancer Institute, most people who die from cancer die from cancer that has metastasized.

Treatments are available for metastatic cancer, but they mainly relieve symptoms and prolong life. Treatment options depend on location, size, and the amount of tumors.

New Hope for Patients With Metastatic Colon Cancer

The German research team studied colon cancer tissue and cells from mice and humans. They found that the colon cancer cells released proteins called chemokines. The chemokines (CCL2) attach to the endothelial cells (the cells of the inner blood vessel walls) and activate a corresponding receptor (CCR2 receptor). This communication makes the endothelial cells permeable, allowing the tumor to spread to other organs.

In other words, the diseased cells "trick" the healthy cells into thinking that they, too, are healthy.

"The tumor cells outwit the endothelial cells by emitting a signal used by healthy cells," explains Professor Mathias Heikenwälder of TUM's Institute of Virology in a press release. "By understanding the role of chemokine receptors in relation to endothelial cells we have potentially uncovered a brand new approach to cancer treatment."

What the Findings Mean for Patients With Metastatic Colon Cancer

This discovery helps healthcare professionals two-fold: By measuring the number of chemokines, physicians may be able to predict the risk of metastatis in cancer patients. And, if they can block the chemokine receptor at the endothelial cells, it may prevent the tumor from spreading to other organs both before and after an operation.

Researchers will continue to study this development further and see how it can be applied to other types of cancer.




Potential New Treatment for Metastatic Colon Cancer. Medical News Today. Web.July 2012.

Press release. Technische Universitaet Muenchen. "How tumor cells create their own pathways." 9 Jul. 2012. Web.

Metastatic Cancer. National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health. Web. 5/23/11