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"Self-Seeding" of Cancer Cells May Play a Critical Role in Tumor Progression

Cancer progression is commonly thought of as a process involving the growth of a primary tumor followed by metastasis, in which cancer cells leave the primary tumor and spread to distant organs. A new study by researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center shows that circulating tumor cells cancer cells that break away from a primary tumor and disseminate to other areas of the body can also return to and grow in their tumor of origin, a newly discovered process called "self-seeding."

The findings of the study, published in the journal Cell, suggest that self-seeding can enhance tumor growth through the release of signals that promote angiogenesis, invasion, and metastasis.

"Our work not only provides evidence for the self-seeding phenomenon and reveals the mechanism of this process, but it also shows the possible role of self-seeding in tumor progression," said the study's first author Mi-Young Kim, PhD, Research Fellow in the Cancer Biology and Genetics Program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering.

According to the research, which was conducted in mice, self-seeding involves two distinct functions: the ability of a tumor to attract its own circulating progeny and the ability of circulating tumor cells to re-infiltrate the tumor in response to this attraction. The investigators identified four genes that are responsible for executing these functions: IL-6 and IL-8, which attract the most aggressive segment of the circulating tumor cells population, and FSCN1 and MMP1, which mediate the infiltration of circulating tumor cells into a tumor.

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