SLEEPING UGLIES: Breast cancer cells (green label) lie dormant in lung tissue, awaiting a signal to become an active cancer stem cell.COURTESY OF HUA GAO AND FILIPPO GIANCOTTI

The paper
H. Gao et al., “The BMP inhibitor Coco reactivates breast cancer cells at lung metastatic sites.” Cell, 150:764-79, 2012.

The finding
Cancer cells often move around early in tumor development, but can remain dormant for years. Hua Gao and colleagues at the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research discovered that dormant breast cancer cells that have migrated to the lung could be roused when they start to express a protein called Coco, which is switched on by an unknown signal from lung tissue and fires up the cell’s transition to an active cancer stem cell.

The alarm clock
To identify genes involved in metastasis, Gao and colleagues screened fragments of DNA from highly...


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