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Aurora magazine

Do pregnancy and metastasis have an evolutionary connection?

A team of researchers from UConn School of Medicine and Yale University has used pregnancy to study how metastases develop. In many mammals, the placenta invades the uterine walls; in others, the placenta is much less aggressive.

The researchers discovered a correlation between this phenomenon and the possibility of a tumor creating metastases. Principal author of the study, Dr. Kshitiz, observed endometrial cells of different species. In some animals, stromal cells are designed to resist any invasion, including that of the placenta. In contrast, the formation of the placenta in humans can be very invasive during pregnancy. Curiously, the former are much more resistant to metastasis than we are.

The study looks at the process of metastasis formation in a completely different way. At the center of the mechanism are the stromal cells, which make up the connective tissue between the organs. According to the researchers, the more cells resist the invasion of the placenta, the more they resist the invasion of metastases. In animals with resistant stromal cells, pregnancy is therefore much more controlled and it is more difficult for metastases to form in the case of cancer.

The researchers identified the genes that regulate the stroma, identifying the differences between us and the most resistant animals. This could open the door to a new type of anticancer therapy, aimed at blocking the spread of tumors.