Cancer cells can metastasize and invade other organs because they produce enzymes that destroy extracellular matrices. Until now the extracellular matrix was considered passive to the cancer attack. But in September 1 Cancer Research, Richard Seftor and colleagues from The University of Iowa show that highly aggressive melanoma cells leave a persistent molecular track in the extracellular matrix which can make less aggressive cancer cells much more aggressive.

Using microarray gene chip analyses Seftor et al. found that aggressive melanoma cells express increased amounts of metalloproteinases MMP-2, MT1-MMP and Ln-5γ2 chain, which they leave behind in the extracellular matrix. When poorly aggressive melanoma cells were seeded on matrices preconditioned by the aggressive cells they started forming tubular networks along the Ln-5γ2 chain-enriched tracks deposited by the aggressive cells (Cancer Res 2001, 61:6322-6327).

"The implications of this study suggest that the matrix of tumors might serve as...

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