Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with the Axios AM and PM newsletters. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to the Axios Closer newsletter for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios Pro Rata

Dive into the world of dealmakers across VC, PE and M&A with Axios Pro Rata. Delivered daily to your inbox by Dan Primack and Kia Kokalitcheva.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with the Axios Sports newsletter. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Des Moines newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Tampa Bay newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Austin news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Austin newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Atlanta news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Atlanta newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Philadelphia news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Philadelphia newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Chicago news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Chicago newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top DC news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios DC newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!
Growth of normal tumor cell clusters in a mouse lung (l ) compared to growth of tumor cell clusters when they are prevented from expressing epigen (r). Photo: Kevin Cheung/FredHutch

A signal between breast cancer cells could be a target for new drugs to block the cells from clustering, migrating and metastasizing, researchers said in early findings published in Cell last week.

Why it matters: Metastatic tumors kill nearly 43,000 people from breast cancer, 33,000 from prostate cancer and 135,720 from lung cancer in the U.S. every year. Scientists are seeking ways to prevent a person's cancer from spreading to other organs and becoming more deadly.

Background: Metastatic cancer was thought to mainly originate from single cancer cells traveling to other parts of the body. But there's growing evidence that, at least in some cancers, tumors are more likely to spread throughout the body if they cluster together before traveling through a process called collective cell migration, or collective metastasis.

  • "In this particular study, we show there's a 500-fold increase in metastasis formation for cluster tumor cells [CTCs] compared with the equivalent number of individual tumor cells," study co-author and medical oncologist Kevin Cheung tells Axios.
  • Patients with CTCs tend to have "markedly worse clinical outcomes," says Cheung, assistant professor of the public health sciences division at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
  • CTCs can range from three to dozens of cells that separate from the primary tumor and travel through the bloodstream or lymphatic system.

What they found: Using high resolution imaging to examine clusters of breast cancer cells in mouse and human models, the team discovered a space called "nanolumina" between the cells of each cancer cluster where the cells co-opt a signaling molecule called epigen to promote the growth of clusters.

  • Epigen appears to be accumulating between these nanolumina at about 5,000 times higher concentration than the fluid outside the structure, Cheung says.
  • They found when epigen was suppressed within the nanolumina, primary tumor and metastatic outgrowth was greatly reduced.
  • "Epigen is like a toggle switch. When epigen is high, cluster tumor cells divide and proliferate. ... If we block the epigen within these [nanolumina] compartments, we block metastasis," Cheung says.

What they're saying: Several scientists, who were not part of this study, said finding the nanolumina and epigen is an important early step in better understanding breast cancer metastasis that might later be found to apply to other cancers, too.

  • "These findings are very important and new. Most breast cancer patients are not dying from the primary tumor but from metastasis of their tumors," says Priscilla Hwang, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University.
  • "While this study focused on breast cancer, this could potentially be a target to look at for many other cancers as well. Obviously that's not been done yet, but the potential is there," says Aleks Skardal, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Ohio State University.
  • "Since a lot of metastatic therapies have been designed based on our understanding of single cell metastasis, this may be part of the reason why many therapies have not been effective for treating metastasis," Hwang says.

What they don't know: This may be a general approach for metastasis for different tumor types, but they don't yet know how many tumor types have nanolumina, Cheung says.

  • And any drug therapy targeting epigen would need to be a "balancing act," Skardal points out, as the molecule also plays an important role in normal cell growth.

What's next: After further research, "the next steps are figuring out how to weaponize this against cancer," Skardal says.

Go deeper

The hard math behind America's labor shortage

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Congressional Budget Office; Chart: Axios Visuals

Yes, the pandemic has created unusual temporary labor market dynamics. But in the bigger picture, the 2010s were a golden age for companies seeking cheap labor. The 2020s are not.

The big picture: In the 2010s, the massive millennial generation was entering the workforce, the massive baby bo0m generation was still hard at work, and there was a multi-year hangover from the deep recession caused by the global financial crisis.

Advocates fret Roe v. Wade's 49th anniversary could be its last

Photo: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Women's March Inc

As Saturday marks the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's landmark decision that legalized abortion access in the U.S., advocates warn the ruling is "more at risk now than ever."

The big picture: The Supreme Court in December heard a challenge to a Mississippi 15-week abortion ban that could throw Roe's survival into question, or at least narrow its scope.

Updated 11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker