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Cells at Centers of Kidney Tumors Metastasize

 Researchers gain insight into how solid tumor cancers spread

Photo portrait of Miriam Bergeret
Miriam Bergeret, MSc
Photo portrait of Miriam Bergeret

Miriam Bergeret, MSc, is Today's Clinical Lab's managing editor.

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Published:Jun 28, 2021
|1 min read
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In a new study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, researchers from the Francis Crick Institute have shown that cells in the center of kidney tumors have more aggressive phenotypes and are more likely to metastasize to other parts of the body than those on the periphery. The results add to a growing body of knowledge around how solid tumor cancers spread.

Cancer often metastasizes from primary tumors to form secondary tumors in other parts of the body that are more difficult to treat. Identifying which part of the primary tumor harbors cells capable of metastasizing could help researchers develop treatments that prevent this migration.

To investigate the spatial dynamics of tumors, the researchers analyzed 102 whole-tumor images from clear cell renal cell carcinoma patients, where a renal pathologist mapped the images using X and Y coordinates. The spatial mapping was then combined with genomic and phenotypic data from 756 biopsies from different tumor locations.

The study showed that aggressive cells that were more likely to metastasize were found at the centers of tumors. These cells had higher proliferation rates and mutational burdens, as well as more necrosis, suggesting that the harsh conditions at the center of tumors create an environment that drives cells toward a more volatile phenotype in order to survive.

Demonstrating a relationship between spatial location of cells and their phenotype, the results will contribute to the development of therapies that can target the cells that are most likely to metastasize.