Genes & Cells

A look at how ovarian cancer spreads, plus clues to aging and immune links to cancer in this week’s news

Ovarian cancer gets a move on Like a celebrity’s entourage clearing a path through crowds, ovarian cancer cells muscle aside healthy tissue to spread throughout the body. Researchers at Harvard Medical School captured the tumor cells’ bullying tactics in time-lapse movies and report the results in the July Cancer Discovery . Ovarian cancer cells use at least three proteins to pry apart healthy cells, the team discovered. A protein called integrin acts like a grappling hook to snag scaffold proteins surrounding healthy cells. A second protein called talin tethers the grappling hook to a motor protein called myosin, which generates the traction to force a hole through healthy tissue. Understanding how cancer spreads through the body may lead to treatments to stop or prevent the invasion. — Tina Hesman Saey

New clues from premature aging 
An abnormal protein that builds up in children with a premature aging disease may also play a role in normal aging. Francis Collins of the National Institutes of Health and colleagues show that as normal cells stop dividing and become inactive — a condition called senescence — progerin, a protein linked to Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome, can build up. But the buildup happens only in cells in which telomeres, the protective caps at the end of chromosomes, are shortened, damaged or lost, the researchers report online June 13 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. —Tina Hesman Saey

When immune cells promote cancer
The immune system is supposed to seek out and destroy cancer, but some immune cells apparently didn’t get the memo. White blood cells called macrophages normally help whip the immune system into a protective frenzy. But macrophages that produce a protein called Foxp3 do the opposite, suppressing the immune reaction and creating conditions that helps tumors grow, an international team of researchers reports online June 13 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine. The foxy macrophages can draw healthy immune cells over to the dark side, converting them into Foxp3 producers, too. —Tina Hesman Saey

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