Cancer results from uncontrolled cell growth and is an epidemic that has no cure. The treatment options for this illness remain limited, especially if the cancer spreads to other organs. Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology believe they may have found a way to stop cancer from metastasizing, potentially creating a life-saving new cancer treatment.

Metastasis is the process in which cancer cells spread to previously unaffected organs

There are particular mechanisms in biological systems that prevent cells with damaged DNA from replicating. There are also mechanisms that prevent cells from dividing too rapidly. When these mechanisms are ignored, a cancerous cell develops.

Cancer cells do not respond to normal cell signals and are able to reroute much of the body's resources to themselves. This causes overcrowding and can leave healthy cells depleted of necessary resources. As a result of this abnormal cell growth, many healthy cells are not able to survive.

One the reasons why cancer is so difficult to treat is because of its ability to metastasize. metastasis is the term used to describe when cancer moves from one part of the body to another. This causes more tissue to be affected by the illness, thus making it more difficult to treat. Sometimes, cancerous cells are able to enter the bloodstream or lymphatic system. Both of these systems are involved in the transfer of fluids and materials from one part of the body to another. When cancer cells enter either of these, they are easily able to spread to previously unaffected organs.

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All cells have small protrusions called filopodia on their outermost membrane. The filopodia act like little feet, helping the cell move around the body. Cancerous cells have more filopodia than healthy cells. Because of this, they are able to travel throughout the body easily and rapidly.

Researchers try to stop metastasis by severing the filopodia

This research was headed by Mostafa El-Sayed, a professor at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia. El-Sayed and his team decided to directly target the filopodia of cancer cells as a way to stop their migration into healthy tissues. They used nanotechnology to carefully insert gold nanorods into the cells. These nanoscopic gold particles were coated in a molecule called RGD peptides. These molecules are attracted to a type of protein located in cells called integrin and are easily able to bind to it. One of the purposes of integrin is to tell a cell when it should produce more filopodia. When the nanoparticles bind with the integrin, the cell loses the ability to produce more filopodia, thus reducing the risk of metastasis. The research was successful in slowing the process of metastasis and is unique, as it was localized to only the cancerous cells, preventing damage to healthy cells in the process.