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Pivotal gene in spread of cancer cells identified

2012/05/24 22:45:53

Taipei, May 24 (CNA) Researchers in Taiwan have identified a key gene that plays a part in a tumor's invasion of body tissues, which they said can help develop new drugs to battle cancer metastasis, one of the researchers said Thursday.

A research team at National Chung Hsing University in Taichung, central Taiwan, identified focal adhesion kinase (FAK) as a key molecule necessary for the formation of podosome rosettes, assemblies of membrane structures that are often found in highly invasive cells, said Chen Hong-chen, dean of the university's life science college who led the research.

Podosomes are linked to cancer and metastasis, Chen said, adding that the mechanism of these assemblies remained obscure until Taiwanese researchers identified them after a four-year study.

The results also indicated that an elevated expression of FAK is related to the formation of podosome rosettes and induction of cell invasion, supporting the role of FAK in malignant tumor progression, Chen said at a news conference held to introduce the research, which has been published in the Journal of Cell Biology.

Removal of the gene from tumor cells can therefore prevent them from forming podosome rosettes and thus suppress cell invasion and reduce occurrence of cancer metastasis, Chen added.

The discovery is helpful for understanding cancer metastasis and for the development of drugs, Chen said.

(By Chen Ching-ping and Kendra Lin)