News Release

Mayo Clinic researchers identify interaction among proteins that cause cancer cells to metastasize

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Mayo Clinic

ROCHESTER Minn. -- Researchers at Mayo Clinic have identified an interaction among proteins that allows cancer cells to grow and metastasize. They say the discovery may play a role in developing a better understanding of how tumors grow in a variety of malignancies, including breast, prostate, pancreatic, colon, lung and skin cancers. Their work is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"In our paper, we identify a direct interaction between focal adhesion kinase and myosin that drives the production of secreted cancer-promoting proteins," says Alexander Meves, M.D., a dermatologist at Mayo Clinic.

Dr. Meves says cancer cells use these secreted proteins to create stiff, insoluble scaffolds that inhibit anti-tumor immunity and support tumor growth and metastasis. Metastasis is a life-threatening condition in which cancer cells break away from the site where they formed to other areas of the body.

"Cancer cells are very responsive to their environment and try to adapt and fit in," explains Dr. Meves. "Focal adhesion kinase provides these cells with input about their environment, specifically the rigidity or elasticity of the environment."

Dr. Meves says myosin acts like a motor that transfers focal adhesion kinase from the cell membrane to its nucleus. He says once focal adhesion kinase and myosin interact, focal adhesion kinase is shuttled to the cell nucleus to help the cell adapt to its environment through gene transcription.

"Our hope is that, based on the structural data presented in our paper, it may be possible to develop drugs that inhibit cancer progression by blocking the interaction of focal adhesion kinase with other proteins," says Dr. Meves.

This study was a result of a Mayo Clinic's team based, patient-centered research that brings together renowned physicians, researchers and scientists to develop or provide the latest technologies and treatments to address unmet patient needs.


This work was supported by the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine, Lucille and Smith Gibson, William K. Brokken, Arnold and Kit Palmer, and the Gerstner Family. Additional funding was through the German Research Foundation (Grant KFO-274). J.N.S. is supported by the National Cancer Institute of the NIH under Award P50CA108961. M.K. is supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the NIH under Award R01DK083345 and a grant from the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund of CNY, Inc.

About Mayo Clinic Cancer Center

As a leading institution funded by the National Cancer Institute, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center conducts basic, clinical and population science research, translating discoveries into improved methods for prevention, diagnosis, prognosis and therapy. For information on cancer clinical trials, call the Clinical Trial Referral Office at 1-855-776-0015 (toll-free).

About Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine

Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine discovers and integrates the latest in genomic, molecular and clinical sciences into personalized care for each Mayo Clinic patient. For more information, visit

About Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit organization committed to clinical practice, education and research, providing expert, whole-person care to everyone who needs healing. For more information, visit or

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