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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Hallmarks and Signaling of Cancer Cells. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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Cancer Hallmark #6: Migration and Invasion

The extracellular space surrounding each cell is called extracellular matrix (ECM). Among different types of ECM proteins, those that "integrate" (or tether) cells to the ECM are called integrins.
The ECM of different cells is "adhered" to one another by a class of proteins called cadherins. Cadherins come in two forms: pro-cell adhesion and anti-cell adhesion.
The best studied pro-adhesion cadherin is called E-cadherin (or E-cad). The best studied anti-adhesion cadherin is call N-cadherin (or N-cad). Not surprisingly, in cancer cells, E-cad activity is substantially reduced whereas N-cad activity is significantly elevated. These parallel events enable cancer cells to be highly mobile and capable of migrating to neighboring tissues or distal organs, a phenomenon called metastasis.