How cancer cells break free from tumors

Although tumor metastasis causes about 90 percent of cancer deaths, the exact mechanism that allows cancer cells to spread from one part of the body to another is not well understood. One key question is how tumor cells detach from the structural elements that normally hold tissues in place, then reattach themselves in a new site.

A new study from MIT cancer researchers reveals some of the cellular adhesion molecules that are critical to this process. The findings, published Oct. 9 in Nature Communications, offer potential new cancer drug targets, says Sangeeta Bhatia, the John and Dorothy Wilson Professor of Health Sciences and Technology and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and leader of the research team.

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