(Fox News) Researchers have found a critical element that may explain why some cancers spread farther and faster than others, a discovery that could lead to one of the Holy Grails of cancer treatment: containing the disease.

Scientists from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have identified a protein that seems to serve as a switch, regulating the spread of cancer from the primary tumor to distant spots in the body – a process known as metastasis. The protein is used by embryo cells during early development, but then disappears from the body after an individual comes out of the womb.

According to the researchers, the protein was only found in people with metastatic cancer, leading them to believe that the regulation of this protein could potentially stop the dangerous progression of this killer disease.

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