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How do tumors spread to other parts of the body?

By Dr Sarah Diermeier

Dr Sarah Diermeier has been funded $194,223 to support her research.

Dr Sarah Diermeier, University of Otago

How do tumors spread to other parts of the body?

Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) are molecules that help turn genes on and off in different cells.

Previous research found that one specific lncRNA was more active in breast cancer cells than normal breast cells. Dr Sarah Diermeier and her team hypothesise that this highly active lncRNA molecule found in breast cancer cells is contributing to the spread of the tumour to other parts of the body, such as the brain, bone, lungs and liver.

The researchers will remove the highly active lncRNA molecule from mice and human breast cancer cells and look at the effect this has on the ability of the cancer to spread. They will also look at the effect of making the lncRNA highly active in normal breast cancer cells to see if this causes the tumour to spread.

How will it help people affected by cancer?

Gaining a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms that lead to the spread of cancer will bring researchers closer to finding treatments to target these mechanisms. These treatments could have the potential to slow or stop the spread of cancer to other parts of the body.