Johns Hopkins Research May Explain How Mesothelioma Spreads

In malignant mesothelioma and many other types of cancer, the spread of cells to distant areas of the body – a process called metastasis – is an ominous sign. Metastasis makes fighting the disease much more difficult. The quest to stop the process has long been a goal for cancer researchers, and it starts with understanding how it happens.  Researchers from Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center and Johns Hopkins University believe that recent lab studies have unmasked the mystery of the mechanism.

Do Mesothelioma Cells Reach Out to Blood Vessels?

Though the Hopkins researchers used breast cancer cells in their recent study, there is good reason to believe that what they observed would also hold true of malignant mesothelioma. The group built a working, three-dimensional blood vessel and then allowed breast cancer cells to grow nearby. They then sat back and watched what would happen.

Though the group had anticipated seeing a bundle of cells breaking off and infiltrating the blood vessel’s walls to use it as a pathway, what they observed instead was cells taking over a patch of the blood vessel’s walls, allowing themselves to be released directly into the bloodstream to travel to different areas of the body. Using the same mechanism, the cancer cells were able to control the blood vessels in many ways, including pulling on them and making them leak.

Mesothelioma Cells May Control Blood Vessels

Mesothelioma researchers may find significant value in the study’s findings, which were published in the journal Cancer Research. In it, senior study author and co-director of the Cancer Invasion and Metastasis Program at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center and professor of cell biology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Andrew Ewald, Ph.D. wrote, “We observed that cancer cells can rapidly reshape, destroy or integrate into existing blood vessels.” 

“What we saw was that a piece of an existing tumor would take over a neighboring blood vessel wall, putting cancer cells in direct contact with the circulation, and that the cancer cells could do so in a matter of hours. They didn’t have to invade past the blood vessels; they became the blood vessels, and could just release cancer cells there.” The blood vessels that formed from this mechanism are known as mosaic vessels because they contain both natural blood vessel cells and cancer cells. They have been found in many different types of cancers. 

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma and you need access to the most current research, the Patient Advocates at can help. Contact us today at 1-800-692-8608.

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is the head writer of our news blog. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Terri believes that knowledge is power and she is committed to sharing news about the impact of mesothelioma, the latest research and medical breakthroughs, and victims’ stories.

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