Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Activated Blood Platelets Enable Cancer Cells to Penetrate Blood Vessels

Published: Monday, July 08, 2013
Last Updated: Monday, July 08, 2013
Bookmark and Share
In the majority of cases, metastases formation develops via the blood vascular system.

The blood platelets thereby provide invaluable help to the tumour cells in penetrating new organs. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research in Bad Nauheim have identified the P2Y2 receptor molecule on the cells of the blood platelet wall as the gateway that allows the cancer cells to enter the organs. They now aim to prevent the formation of metastases through the targeted blocking of this key molecule.

Blood platelets play a crucial role in haemostasis. When a blood vessel is injured, the platelets ensure the rapid initial closure of the wound. To do this, they quickly adhere to the wall of the injured blood vessel, thereby attracting more platelets which aggregate and form a plug that blocks the opening in the blood vessel wall. To enable the optimal functioning of this “rapid reaction force” in the event of injury to blood vessel walls, the blood platelets release a veritable shower of signal molecules. The cells communicate with each other in this manner. Moreover, the platelets, which normally circulate in the blood stream in an inactive state, are activated in a matter of seconds and fundamentally alter their characteristics.

Malignant tumours, which often spread to previously unaffected organs through the blood stream, use the blood platelets to penetrate the hermetically-sealed blood vessel wall. “It has long been known that metastasising tumour cells are capable of establishing close contact with blood platelets and activating them. Animal experiments have shown that tumour cells form far fewer metastases in the absence of blood platelets,” says Stefan Offermanns, Director of the Department of Pharmacology at the Bad Nauheim-based Max Planck Institute. In addition, clinical studies have shown that patients who receive long-term treatment with platelet inhibitors like acetylsalicylic acid present a lower risk of developing metastasising tumours.

Offermanns’ Research Group has succeeded in explaining exactly how this process unfolds. Activated blood cells release a large amount of molecules including adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The scientists observed in cell cultures that blocking ATP release from blood platelets resulted in a significant reduction in the number of tumour cells migrating through the endothelial cells in the blood vessel wall. “We succeeded in demonstrating the same phenomenon in experiments on mice, in which the release of ATP from blood platelets was blocked. In this case too, far fewer tumour cells slipped through the endothelial barrier and fewer metastases formed,” says Dagmar Schuhmacher, one of the study’s first authors.

However, what exactly happens in the blood vessel wall that enables the tumour cells to penetrate it? The Max Planck researchers were able to demonstrate that ATP from the blood platelets binds with a particular receptor called P2Y2. This docking site is located on the surface of the endothelial cells. “When ATP binds to these receptors, small openings form between the individual endothelial cells. The tumour cells exit the blood vessel through these openings and migrate into the organ,” explains Boris Strilic, also a first author of the study.

With the identification of this hitherto unknown role of blood platelets in metastases formation, the researchers hope to have found possible starting points for a new therapeutic approach. “We will now test whether specific blockers for the P2Y2 receptor or substances that inhibit the release of ATP from blood platelets can suppress tumour cell metastasis in different animal models,” says Offermanns. The specific challenge the scientists must overcome here is to avoid suppressing the actual job of the platelets, namely haemostasis, in the process. If they manage to do this, a better treatment for malignant tumours may become available in the future.

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Scientific News
New Class of RNA Tumor Suppressors Identified
Two short, “housekeeping” RNA molecules block cancer growth by binding to an important cancer-associated protein called KRAS. More than a quarter of all human cancers are missing these RNAs.
Mathematical Model Forecasts the Path of Breast Cancer
Chances of survival depend on which organs breast cancer tumors colonize first.
Exploring the Causes of Cancer
Queen's research to understand the regulation of a cell surface protein involved in cancer.
Nanocarriers May Carry New Hope for Brain Cancer Therapy
Berkeley lab researchers develop nanoparticles that can carry therapeutics across the brain blood barrier.
RNA-Based Drugs Give More Control Over Gene Editing
CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technique can be transiently activated and inactivated using RNA-based drugs, giving researchers more precise control in correcting and inactivating genes.
University of Glasgow Researchers Make An Impact in 60 Seconds
Early-career researchers were invited to submit an engaging, dynamic and compelling 60 second video illuminating an aspect of their research.
Metabolic Profiles Distinguish Early Stage Ovarian Cancer with Unprecedented Accuracy
Studying blood serum compounds of different molecular weights has led scientists to a set of biomarkers that may enable development of a highly accurate screening test for early-stage ovarian cancer.
Dead Bacteria to Kill Colorectal Cancer
Scientists from Nanyang Technological University (NTU Singapore) have successfully used dead bacteria to kill colorectal cancer cells.
CRISPR-Cas9 Gene Editing: Check Three Times, Cut Once
Two new studies from UC Berkeley should give scientists who use CRISPR-Cas9 for genome engineering greater confidence that they won’t inadvertently edit the wrong DNA.
Genetically Engineering Algae to Kill Cancer Cells
New interdisciplinary research has revealed the frontline role tiny algae could play in the battle against cancer, through the innovative use of nanotechnology.

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos