Flipping a genetic switch in tumour cells can halt the spread of cancer, scientists have shown.
The discovery raises the possibility of stopping the deadly disease in its tracks by blocking the gene, thought to be active in all aggressive cancers.
HGMA1 operates like an orchestra conductor, regulating a range of biological processes tumours need to grow and spread around the body.
Its usual role is to drive cell growth during embryonic development. In healthy adults it is turned off, but it is reactivated in cancers.
In tests, the gene's growth slowed and they stopped invading new territory.
Dr Linda Resar from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, US, said: "Our work shows for the first time that switching this gene off in aggressive cancer cells dramatically changes their appearance and behaviour."