Novel scoring scheme helps predict cancer’s ability to spread

Patients with tumours that have higher scores are at greater risk of poor outcomes
Published: 6:48 AM, November 14, 2014
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SINGAPORE — New treatments to suppress metastasis in cancer patients may now be explored, after scientists here have developed a novel scoring scheme that predicts the ability of cancer cells to spread to other parts of the body.

The scoring system monitors the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) mechanism, which plays a role in many cancer-related events, including cancer invasion, metastasis and chemoresistance.

During the EMT process, tumour cells gain the ability to move from the primary tumour site to a secondary one.

In their study, the researchers — led by Professor Jean Paul Thiery, senior principal investigator, and Dr RubyHuang, principal associate at the Cancer Science Institute of Singapore (CSI Singapore) at the National University of Singapore — used 13,000 samples from databases containing gene-expression information for more than 15 different types of cancers.

They established a computational modelling scheme and tumours were scored to reflect their ability to move and spread.

Patients with tumours that had higher scores are at greater risk of poor outcomes than those with tumours that had lower scores, where cells stay in tight contact.

Cancer metastasis is responsible for 90 per cent of cancer deaths.

Researchers then used this scoring scheme to establish an EMT spectrum across various cancers and noted a good correlation between cancer cell lines and tumours.

“The scoring works not only on tumours for patients, but also for cancer cell lines, used in research labs. This means the application can help researchers and clinicians,” said Dr Huang.

The scientists concluded that the scoring scheme might enable the investigation of EMT in cancer progression, survival and throughout the clinical response to therapy. The findings were published in EMBO Molecular Medicine in September.

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