Cancer Cells Undergoing Mitosis

Like every tissue in our body, solid tumours need a blood supply to survive and grow.
As the tumour grows, it releases chemical messages into the environment
that cause new blood vessels to sprout from nearby existing ones.
These new blood vessels are drawn towards the tumour,
where they feed the cancer cells and allow them to grow.
Each time the cancer cells divide, more mutations build up in their genomes.
Because different parts of the tumour acquire different mutations, they behave differently.
Sometimes one region of the tumour will grow faster and more aggressively than the others,
causing the cancer to spread.
All cells in the body, including cancer cells,
must attach to the network of proteins that surrounds them.
This is done by proteins called integrins.
Integrins tell the cell about the type of environment they are in
and give the cell instructions about what to do.
In the case of cancer, particular integrins can send signals
that tell the cancer cells to invade the surrounding tissue.
Sometimes the invading tumour cells may reach a blood vessel,
squeeze in and enter the bloodstream.
The cancer cells take a bumpy journey to a distant part of the body.
Sometimes they are able to squeeze out of the blood vessel into healthy tissue,
where they can start forming a secondary tumour.
This ability of cancer cells to invade and spread around the body is called metastasis
and it represents the biggest challenge in treating cancer.
Finding ways to stop cancer spreading is a major focus of research at the Barts Cancer Institute.

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