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“Collagen a key player in breast cancer metastasis”

Collagen type XII plays a key role in regulating the organisation of the tumour matrix, reveals a new study.

A team of scientists from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research also discovered that high levels of collagen XII can trigger breast cancer cells to spread from the tumour to other parts of the body.

The tumour microenvironment is the ecosystem that surrounds a tumour, a component of which is the extracellular matrix.

Cancer cells constantly interact with the tumour microenvironment, which affects how a tumour grows. Collagen is an important part of this microenvironment, but how it influences tumours has not been understood.

“There’s 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 breast cancer progression and metastasis,” said senior author Associate Professor Thomas Cox.

“Imagine cancer cells as seeds, and the tumour microenvironment as the soil. By studying the soil – the extracellular matrix – we can begin to understand what makes some tumours more aggressive than others, and by extension, begin to develop new ways to treat cancer.”

The research also suggests that measuring the level of collagen XII in a patient’s tumour biopsy could potentially be used as an additional screening tool to identify aggressive breast cancers. 

go.nature.com/3QpniNs

Image credit | Shutterstock

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