Tumor Cells Can Resort to Cannibalism

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Tumor Cells Can Resort to Cannibalism


Cancer patients heavily rely on chemotherapy to kill their cancer cells. Medical professionals use chemotherapy drugs to take these cells by destroying their DNA. However, it was found that there are some breast cancer cells that are resistant to the procedure. This is because they retain a healthy copy of a gene called TP53. Instead of being killed, these cells produce chemical signals that ignite inflammation. Although they no longer replicate, they cause tumors to grow. 


Photo Credit: 123RF


According to Live Science, a science news website that features groundbreaking developments in science, space, technology, health, the environment, our culture and history, new videos have shown how some cancer cells devour their own kind through cannibalism. The cells were caught being sucked in by another cell and shrunk down into tiny nuggets before finally disappearing. The latest study by researchers at the Tulane University of Medicine aims to know how these cells managed to survive. Co-author James Jackson, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology said, "We found that the doxorubicin-treated cells engulfed the untreated cells, but not vice versa, nor did untreated cells engulf untreated cells.”


Photo Credit: Live Science


The researchers mixed the treated human breast cancer cells that have grown in lab dishes with the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin with untreated cells. After stopping to replicate, the treated cells were seen entering a dormant state. They found out that the newly equipped cells frequently ate untreated cells near them. This grants them the energy and materials to support later relapse. The genes normally used by white blood cells to gobble up invading pathogens have also been activated. 


Photo Credit: 123RF


However, Jackson sees this as an opportunity for new therapeutic opportunities. This is because breast cancer patients who have cancer cells with a normal TP53 gene suffer poor survival rates. But heir response to chemotherapy can be improved by stopping tumor cells from eating each other.




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