Scientists studying skin cancer and breast cancer in genetically modified mice, found hybrid cancer cells which are combined properties of different cell types. This discovery will help to understand how cancer spreads in the body.
Tumors are diverse, and the cancer cells change their shape in order to grow. "Not all tumor cells are the same, - says Professor Cedric Blanpeyn. - Some cells multiply, some cells have different shapes, some die and some intrude into the fabric. Therefore, it is important to understand what are the functions of the various states of the tumor. "
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Most solid tumors can not migrate. But as you know, the cancer can spread. One reason is that the epithelial cells are transformed into another type of cell (mesenchymal cells) that can be moved. When doctors identify mesenchymal cells in a patient, which means that may appear metastases.
A team of researchers to study this transformation, and the cells go through a series of hybrid states to spread in the future. Scientists have shown that, at each transition hybrid cells display on their surface a variety of receptors play. They are thinking about the drug, which has been specially programmed to be dangerous hybrid cells.
"We are trying to process existing drugs to block the metastatic process," - says Professor Blanpayn. He believes that one could "push" hybrid and mesenchymal cells back to epithelial status, which would make them more susceptible to therapy.
These recent discoveries are part of a growing field of cancer stem cell biology. Cancer stem cells are similar to normal stem cells because they can multiply and transform into a number of specialized cells. Under normal conditions, the stem cells are useful, for example, for tissue regeneration. But cancer stem cells support tumor growth.
Cancer stem cells may explain relapse after chemotherapy or other treatments. They can remain dormant when the rest of the tumor is under attack, and become active later.
These cells are now found in cancerous tumors of the brain, skin and intestines. Scientists are working hard to target the cancer stem cells, but they conclude that they need as a simultaneous attack on the tumor, and the cancer stem cells. Otherwise, tumor cells may return to the cancer stem cells and lead to tumor growth.
Scientists hope to identify cancer stem cells in patients to test the methods of treatment and reduce the burden on metastasis. One possibility could be to use the body's own immune system.