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  • Posted: 11/23/2012
NCI Cancer Center News

MicroRNA makes triple-negative breast cancer homesick

Epithelial cells are homebodies – they like to attach to things and becoming detached initiates a form of cell suicide known as anoikis (literally "homeless" in Latin). But in order for cancer cells to metastasize they have to leave their homes and to survive while traveling they must resist anoikis – like a third-grader at sleep-away camp. Cancer cells do this by taking a page from the neuron playbook. Neurons are by nature unbound – they grow and link to each other and not to a substrate. Neurons have a protein called TrkB that allows them to survive anoikis; healthy epithelial cells don't have TrkB and so are susceptible to anoikis. Carcinoma cells are epithelial cells gone bad and have learned to act like neurons, inappropriately activating TrkB signaling to escape anoikis. They do it by a mutation that nixes production of a microRNA called miR-200c. When researchers at the University of Colorado Cancer Center reintroduced miR-200c to aggressive, triple-negative breast cancer cells, these cells regained sensitivity to anoikis and self-destructed.

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