New details about the mechanism by which cancer cells multiply have been revealed by Japanese researchers.
Scientists from the University of Yamanashi have identified a protein which plays a crucial role in the aggregation of platelets induced by cancer.
Cancer cells release chemicals that enabling them to bind to the inside of blood vessels and thus evade the immune system. One of these chemicals, podoplanin, causes platelets to aggregate.
Scientists found that a protein called CLEC-2 binds to podoplanin, a process which the researchers believe does not only result in the build up of platelets but also releases chemicals that may provide the tumour with the nutrients and oxygen it needs to grow.
Dr Katsue Suzuki-Inoue said: "Although podoplanin has been known since 1990, how it induces platelet cell aggregation has been a mystery - until now."
She added: "Our study clearly shows that podoplanin on the surface of tumour cells induces platelet aggregation by interacting with CLEC-2 on the surface of platelet cells. Preventing CLEC-2 and podoplanin from binding to each other may be a good therapeutic way of preventing tumour metastasis."
The study appears in the September 7th issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.