Breakthrough cancer research
Biological Sciences Assistant Professor Jie Fan works in his UM-Dearborn lab to research how cancer spread occurs in an effort to stop cancer cells from going beyond their original location. Keeping the cancer from spreading, or metastasizing, is linked to higher survival rates. Studying how tumor cells interact with the cells that line blood vessels, Fan made a discovery that he’s recently shared with the medical research community. Fan noticed that the once-tight vessels become leaky after direct physical contact with tumor cells. Looking closer, he noticed that the healthy blood vessel cells, called endothelial cells, have chirality, which means they are mirror images of one another. This allows them to lock tightly together in a clockwise direction. But when tumor cells are introduced, the blood vessel’s cells start connecting in a random pattern, causing leaks that give cancer cells a way to travel to other locations through the bloodstream. Fan says regulating this cell interaction holds promise for better controlling cancer metastasis, and he plans to work further on developing therapeutics in this area.