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Jun 3, 2021

Researchers identify how to prevent cancer metastases

Posted by in category: biotech/medical

The published results indicate several possible methods of preventing metastasis: immunotherapy based on interleukin-15, which increases the number of natural killer cells in the tissue; interferon gamma therapy, which maintains the dormant state of the cancer cells; and inhibitors of the mechanism through which the hepatic stellate cells paralyze the natural killer cells. Appropriate therapies already exist for all these approaches, but they still need to be clinically tested.


Metastases can develop in the body even years after apparently successful cancer treatment. They originate from cancer cells that migrated from the original tumor to other organs, and which can lie there inactive for a considerable time. Researchers have now discovered how these “sleeping cells” are kept dormant and how they wake up and form fatal metastases. They have reported their findings in the journal Nature.

A tumor can leave behind an ominous legacy in the body: cancer cells can migrate from the tumor to other tissues in the body, where they survive after treatment in a kind of hibernation called dormancy. Currently, cancer medicine relies on monitoring after their initial treatment in order to detect the awakening of these cells to form metastases. One of the biggest questions in cancer research is what exactly causes this transition.

“This dormancy period offers an important therapeutic window in which the number of cancer cells and their heterogeneity are still manageable,” says Professor Mohamed Bentires-Alj, group leader at the Department of Biomedicine at the University of Basel and University Hospital Basel. “Understanding the cellular and underlying tumor dormancy is therefore crucial to preventing the recurrence of cancer.” His team has made an important step in this direction.

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