In what could be a major step forward in our understanding of how cancer moves around the body, researchers have observed the spread of cancer cells from the initial tumour to the bloodstream.
The findings suggest that secondary growths called metastases 'punch' their way through the walls of small blood vessels by targeting a molecule known as Death Receptor 6 (no, really, that's what it's called). This then sets off a self-destruct process in the blood vessels, allowing the cancer to spread.
According to the team from Goethe University Frankfurt and the Max Planck Institute in Germany, disabling Death Receptor 6 (DR6) may effectively block the spread of cancerous cells - so long as there aren't alternative ways for the cancer to access the bloodstream.
Scientists have finally figured out how cancer spreads through the bloodstream
Image: K. Hodivala-Dilke, M. Stone/Wellcome Images