CANCER

Blocking tumor cell transitions

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Science  16 Jan 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6219, pp. 245
DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6219.245-b

Msi2 (green) expression in mouse mammary ducts

PHOTO: Y. KATZ ET AL.; ELIFE 3 (7 NOVEMBER 2014) © 2015 ELIFE SCIENCES PUBLICATIONS LTD.

A process called the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition allows cancer cells to invade nearby tissue and metastasize. Katz et al. investigated the molecular underpinnings of this process and determined that tumors with a more epithelial gene signature expressed higher amounts of the Musashi (Msi) family of RNA-binding proteins as compared to tumors with a more mesenchymal profile. High amounts of Msi proteins locked mammary cells in a state that was less mobile and incapable of differentiation. Reducing Msi expression allowed breast cancer cells to transition into a mesenchymal-like form. Msi proteins may impose an undifferentiated state on cancers, as these proteins are also abundant in neural stem cells.

eLife 3, e03915 (2014).

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