The process of metastasis is where cancer starts to spread to other parts of the body, lodging in vital organs such as the liver or lungs.
This is critical because over 90% of patients who succumb to cancer die of the metastatic spread of the disease, not because of the primary tumour.
The research, by Professor Nicola Aceto of the University of Basel, has done much to characterise the process by which cancer begins to travel around the body. Key is the formation of clusters of circulating tumour cells that are 50-times more like generate metastasis than individual cancer cells.
Thanks to Aceto and the Basel team it is now understood that these clusters are formed via a process called intra-tumour hypoxia (oxygen starvation).
Further, it is thought that certain cancer drugs targeting tumours may actually help promote conditions for hypoxia.
Essential then will be finding a treatment regimen that both treats the primary tumour and prevents the fatal secondary spread of the disease.
ANGLE’s involvement in the work revolved, as ever, around its ground-breaking Parsortix system, which is used to assess blood samples for the tiny circulating tumour cells that provide the tell-tell signs of cancer.
In the Basel study, the technology was deployed to isolate both individual circulating tumour cells as well as CTC clusters.
“This seminal work, by one of ANGLE's leading customers, exemplifies how the Parsortix system can enable drug discovery by identifying mechanisms for metastatic spread which can form the basis of new treatment strategies," the company’s chief executive and founder, Andrew Newland said in a statement.