The University of Guelph study identified a protein, known as cadherin-22, as a potential factor in cancer metastasis, or spread, and showed that hindering it decreased the adhesion and invasion rate of breast and brain cancer cells by up to 90 per cent.
"Cadherin-22 could be a powerful prognostic marker for advanced cancer stages and patient outcomes," said lead author Jim Uniacke.
In over a hundred breast and brain cancer patient tumour specimens, researchers found that the more hypoxic the tumour was, the more cadherin-22 it had.
Cadherin-22 is located on cell surfaces, allowing hypoxic cancer cells to stick together and migrate collectively as a group, said Uniacke.
Studying breast and brain cancer cells in a hypoxia incubator, Uniacke and his team discovered that cadherin-22 is involved in this process to enable the spread of cancer cells.