A team of scientists, led by David D. Schlaepfer, professor in the department of reproductive medicine at University of California, has found that a protein focal adhesion kinase - or FAK protein - gets activated in surrounding blood vessels of a tumour, enabling cancer cells to spread into the bloodstream.

"Our studies show that pharmacological or genetic inhibition of the endothelial protein focal adhesion kinase, or FAK, prevents tumour spread by enhancing the vessel barrier function," Schlaepfer said in a paper published in the Journal of Cell Biology.

Blood vessels are tightly lined with endothelial cells, which form a permeability barrier to circulating cells and molecules.

The researchers found that selective FAK inhibition within endothelial cells prevented spontaneous tumour metastasis without alterations in tumour size.

Using mouse models of breast, ovarian and melanoma tumours, first author of the paper Christine Jean showed that FAK activity was elevated in the blood vessels surrounding tumours, compared to normal tissue.


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