A team of experts led by the Associate Professor Thomas Coxhead of Matrix and Metastasis laboratory of the Garvan Institute of Medical Researchwanted to show, in a recent study, that the collagen XII plays a key role in regulating the organization of the tumor matrix. The research also has a message in that high levels of collagen XII can trigger the spread of breast cancer cells from the tumor to other parts of the body, in a process known as metastasis.
The results of the study have been published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.
Role of collagen XII in breast cancer metastases: Here’s what the research revealed
tumor microenvironment is the ecosystem surrounding a tumor, a component of which is the extracellular matrix. Cancer cells constantly interact with the tumor microenvironment, which affects how a tumor grows. Collagen is an important part of this tumor microenvironment, but how it affects tumors has not been understood.
“There is still a lot we don’t know about the role of the extracellular matrix in cancer metastasis. Our study shows that collagen XII plays an important role in the progression and metastasis of breast cancer, ”said senior research author Professor Thomas Cox.
“Imagine cancer cells as seeds and the tumor microenvironment as soil. By studying the soil, the extracellular matrix, we can begin to understand what makes some cancers more aggressive than others and, by extension, begin to develop new ways to treat cancer, ‘added Professor Cox.
The study also showed that measuring the level of collagen XII in a patient’s tumor biopsy could potentially be used as an additional screening tool to identify aggressive breast cancers with higher rates of metastasis, such as in the triple negative type of cancer. breast. Furthermore, collagen XII could be a possible target for future treatments.
The extracellular matrix or “matrix” is a 3D lattice of approximately 300-400 central molecules, including several collagen proteins. This matrix provides structural and functional support to cells and tissues in all parts of the body.
In carrying out this research, scientists from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research’s Matrix and Metastasis laboratory cataloged how the tumor matrix changes over time and generated a comprehensive database of these changes, which was made available free to researchers.
The team of experts focused on collagen XII, one of the 28 types of collagen in the body. Collagen XII plays an important role in the organization of other collagens and can have profound effects on the 3D structure of the extracellular matrix.
The team of scientists carefully analyzed tumors in mouse models from early preclinical cancer to late-stage cancers. The researchers found that as the tumors developed, many molecules of the matrix changed and, more importantly, the level of collagen XII also increased.
“Collagen XII appears to alter the properties of the tumor and make it more aggressive,” explained lead author Michael Papanicolaou, of Garvan: “It changes the way collagens are organized to support cancer cells that escape the tumor and move around. in other sites such as the lungs “.
Scientists subsequently used genetic engineering to manipulate collagen XII production and carefully analyzed the effects of metastases in other organs. The researchers also revealed that as collagen XII levels increased, metastases also increased.
These results were then confirmed in human tumor biopsies, which showed that high levels of collagen XII are associated with higher metastases and lower overall survival rates. Further research will focus on studying multiple human samples and investigating possible therapeutic pathways.
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