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Breakthrough in cancer research

A joint research group of VTT and the University of Turku has solved a mystery that has confounded cancer researchers for decades: why do cells require surrounding tissue in order to be able to divide? The discovery supports the hypothesis proposed by scientists at the beginning of the last century that abnormal cell division is one of the mechanisms in the development of cancer.

The joint research shows that a cell which is ‘adrift’, i.e. separated from the surrounding tissue, is not able to divide normally. This causes changes in the cell’s genotype, which exposes the body to cancer.

Microscopic images taken by the researchers revealed that a dividing cell anchors itself during the various stages of division by using cell adhesion receptors called integrins. A cell with malfunctioning anchoring molecules will become adrift, starts to divide abnormally and thus acquires the potential to become a cancer cell. The research group also uncovered evidence that the anchoring mechanism had been disturbed in some cases of ovarian cancer and in some prostate cancer metastases.

The finding supports the hypothesis proposed by scientists at the beginning of the last century that abnormal cell division is one of the mechanisms in the development of cancer.

The research results open an entirely new perspective on the early stages of the development of cancer and how the changes occurring in cancerous tissue enable the cancer to continuously become a more malignant and more aggressive tumour. When cells become independent of their anchoring mechanisms, a vicious circle is created: genotype changes occurring at an ever-increasing pace enable the disease to become more and more aggressive.

The research results were published in a leading journal for the cell and developmental biology community. The results will have an impact on the future direction of cancer research.


Additional information

Johanna Ivaska
Senior Research Scientist
+358 20 722 2807

Additional information

Johanna Ivaska
Senior Research Scientist
+358 20 722 2807