Fusion for Moving

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Science  08 Nov 2013:
Vol. 342, Issue 6159, pp. 699-700
DOI: 10.1126/science.1244270

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Most lethal cancers are carcinomas, which arise from epithelia, tissues composed of cells that touch each other, usually forming continuous sheets that line the cavities and surfaces of structures throughout the body. The clinical problem with carcinomas is that they can spread to other parts of the body. Exactly how they develop this capacity is not completely clear, although a number of routes to metastasis have been proposed. Most prominent is the idea that cancer cells undergo a transition from an epithelial state to a more primitive mesenchymal state. In this transition, cell-cell adhesion is lost and cells gain the ability to migrate. Among the other proposed metastatic mechanisms is the idea that a tumor cell could fuse with a mobile cell type and then travel to another site in the body to establish cancer. Although this notion was raised about 100 years ago, it never received widespread attention. This theory may have gained some new traction through a recent study of melanoma metastasis (1).