Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have shed light on how cancers hijack the body’s natural wound-healing response to grow and spread.
The researchers have identified specific processes within endothelial cells – the cells that line blood vessels – that tumors use to build out their own blood supply. These processes are normally used by the body to repair tissue, heal injuries and grow new blood vessels, but tumors co-opt them to create blood vessels that will nourish them and feed their growth.
“A tumor is not just a ball of malignant cancer cells, right? It’s almost like a little miniature organ that creates or co-opts its own blood supply,” explained Andrew C. Dudley, PhD, of UVA’s Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology. “A tumor steals as it’s growing and developing. It steals physiological processes that help it along. And one of those processes is wound healing. And that’s what we’ve been studying – how the tumor subverts this process of wound healing.”