Is Twist1 a key to cancer metastasis?


The other day we reported on a study by Bensawy et al. supporting the idea that epithlial-to-mesenchymal transition or EMT might be an underlying mechanism driving prostate cancer metastasis.

Another study has now been published that supports this concept, but in a quite different form of cancer.

Using a mouse-based model of squamous cell carcinoma, Tsai et al. have been able to show that activation of the EMT-inducing gene called Twist1 was sufficient to turn “on” the EMT switch and allow carcinoma cells to be disseminated through the bloodstream.  They were also able to show that turning “off” the EMT switch at distant sites is essential if the disseminated tumor cells are to proliferate and form metastases. Their paper will be published in the December 11 issue of Cancer Cell.

In the same issue of the same journal, another paper, by Ocaña et al., indicates how a factor called Prrx1 may act to induce the EMT process and confer migratory and invasive (metastatic)  properties on cancer cells.

This additional support for the practicality of Thiery’s concept suggests that reversible EMT may well represent a key driver of cancer metastasis — not just in mice, but perhaps in man too.

Of course there is a long way to go before we are really going to know whether this mechanism is fully applicable in the metastasis of prostate cancer. However, this research does strongly confirm the possibility that EMT inhibition may be a way to suppress cancer metastasis in at least some types of cancer. We’ll have to keep watching this space.

2 Responses

  1. Are there any herbal/medical EMT inhibitors available?

  2. If there are, I am not aware of any (yet).

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