NI University makes cancer discovery
A study conducted at Queen's University, Belfast could lead to more effective treatments being produced for cervical and throat cancers.
Scientists at the University discovered that by targeting the non-cancerous cells around a tumour they could prevent the cancer spreading to other parts of the body.
Previous treatments have largely been based around treatments being applied to the tumour itself but the researchers found that the tissue surrounding the tumour in cases of throat and cervical cancer allows it to be contained.
The study, which was funded by the Wellcome Trust, the Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre and the National Institutes of Health (USA), has been published in the European Molecular Biology Organization Journal.
"Cancer spreads as the result of two-way communication between the cancer cells in a tumour and the non-cancerous cells in the surrounding tissue," explained Professor Dennis McCance, who led the study.
"We already know that cancer cells are intrinsically programmed to invade neighbouring healthy tissue.
"But the cells in the non-cancerous tissue are also programmed to send messages to the cancer cells, actively encouraging them to invade. If these messages - sent from the healthy tissue to the tumour - can be switched-off, then the spread of the cancer will be inhibited."
The scientist discovered that the Retinoblastome protein (Rb) in non-cancerous tissue is activated, it helps to decrease the number of factors which draw an invasion by cancerous cells.
Professor McCance believes that the discovery will enable new treatments to be manufactured for the specific purpose of treating surrounding tissues.
He also pointed out that the researcher was limited to throat and cervix so it is more than possible that the method could be used in the surrounding tissue of other types of cancer.
Globally, cervical cancer alone kills more than 250,000 women each year.