Metastasis, the process by which cancer cells spread from the primary tumor to distant sites, accounts for the vast majority of cancer-related deaths. It is a multistep process, in which cancer cells acquire specific properties that allow them to adapt to new environments in foreign tissues. Within a tumor, individual cells exhibit different properties that may contribute to different metastatic abilities. A crucial concept in this process is the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), in which cancer cells undergo changes that resemble a transition from a static to a more mobile state. This transformation gives them invasive properties, helping them invade surrounding tissues, survive in the bloodstream, and travel to and infiltrate distant tissues. When they reach their new home, the tumor cells have to reverse this process in order to establish metastasis. Elucidating the different steps involved in these transitions during metastasis is crucial for the development of effective prevention and treatment strategies.
Awarded the Fellinger Cancer Research Funding, the research team led by Dr. Winkler will now get to the bottom of this process during metastasis in more detail. The knowledge gained from this research has the potential to revolutionize therapeutic approaches against metastatic cancer.