Endothelial Cells and Cancer Cells Duke It Out

MIT scientists find certain blood-vessel cells suppress cancer growth

(RxWiki News) MIT researchers have discovered that endothelial cells (cells in blood vessels) secrete molecules that inhibit tumor growth and deter cancer cells' invasion of other tissues.

The finding could lead to new cancer treatments by planting endothelial cells near tumors, causing shrinkage of the tumor and preventing the tumor from returning or spreading after surgery or chemotherapy, according to Elazer Edelman, professor in the MIT-Harvard Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST).

The implantation of endothelial cells has been shown to work in mice models and shows promise as a treatment option alongside or independent of chemotherapy and surgery.

Endothelial cells regulate a host of other functions, including the constriction and dilation of blood vessels, blood clotting, tissue repair, inflammation and scarring-- all by releasing molecules.

Edelman and MIT-Harvard Division of Health Sciences and Technology graduate student Joseph Franses hypothesized that endothelial cells may also control cancer behavior. Edelman, Franses and cohorts identified two important molecules secreted by endothelial cells: a large sugar-protein complex called perlecan and a cytokine known as interleukin-6 (IL-6). The researchers found that when endothelial cells secrete lots of perlecan but little IL-6, the endothelial cells will inhibit cancer cell invasion (though the effect in nullified when more IL-6 is produced than perlecan).

Edelman said cancer cells and endothelial cells are constantly at battle and that most of the time the "body's control mechanism wins out ... but when the balance of power is reversed, cancer dominates."

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January 21, 2011