University of Maryland Researchers Use Roche´s xCELLigence System to Study Role of "Microtentacles" on Breast Tumor Cells

PENZBERG, Germany--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Researchers at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center have studied the involvement of “microtentacles,” or extensions of the plasma membrane of breast cancer cells, in how cancers spread to distant locations in the body (1). Targeting these microtentacles might prove to be a new way to prevent or slow the growth of these secondary cancers, scientists say. The researchers used Roches´s (SIX: RO, ROG; OTCQX: RHHBY) xCELLigence RTCA SP Instrument to measure attachment as the relative impedance change, cell index, across the microelectronic sensors at the bottom of the system´s E-Plates.

The cytoskeletal organization of detached and circulating tumor cells (CTCs) is currently not well defined and may provide potential targets for new therapies to limit metastatic tumor spread. CTCs reattach in vivo in distant tissues by a mechanism that is tubulin-dependent and suppressed by polymerized actin. The cytoskeletal mechanisms that promote reattachment of CTCs match exactly with the mechanisms supporting tubulin microtentacles (McTN), which the researchers have recently identified in detached breast tumor cells. The new study aimed to investigate how McTN formation is affected by the microtubule-associated protein, tau, which is expressed in a subset of chemotherapy-resistant breast cancers. The results show that endogenous tau protein localizes to McTNs and is both necessary and sufficient to promote McTN extension in detached breast tumor cells. Tau-induced McTNs increase reattachment of suspended cells and retention of CTCs in lung capillaries. Analysis of individual-matched primary and metastatic tumors reveals that 52% possess tau-expression in metastases and 26% display significantly increased tau-expression over disease progression. Tau-enrichment in metastatic tumors and the ability of tau to promote tumor cell reattachment through McTN formation support a model in which tau-induced microtubule stabilization provides a selective advantage during tumor metastasis.

“We hope that through our research, we will be able to identify drugs that will target the growth of these microtentacles and help to stop the spread of the original cancer. Drugs that reduce tau expression may hold potential to inhibit tumor metastasis,” says the senior author, Stuart S. Martin, PhD, a researcher at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center and associate professor of physiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

(1) Oncogene advance online publication, 15 March 2010; doi:10.1038/onc.2010.68

About Roche
Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Roche is a leader in research-focused healthcare with combined strengths in pharmaceuticals and diagnostics. Roche is the world’s largest biotech company with truly differentiated medicines in oncology, virology, inflammation, metabolism and CNS. Roche is also the world leader in in-vitro diagnostics, tissue-based cancer diagnostics and a pioneer in diabetes management. Roche’s personalised healthcare strategy aims at providing medicines and diagnostic tools that enable tangible improvements in the health, quality of life and survival of patients. In 2009, Roche had over 80’000 employees worldwide and invested almost 10 billion Swiss francs in R&D. The Group posted sales of 49.1 billion Swiss francs. Genentech, United States, is a wholly owned member of the Roche Group. Roche has a majority stake in Chugai Pharmaceutical, Japan. For more information: www.roche.com.

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