Reason behind tumour cell adaptation discovered

2 September 2011

Researchers have managed to pinpoint why tumour cells manage to adapt and change, evading radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment.

Like other cells and diseases, tumours develop ways to evade and resist forms of cancer treatment by continually changing within the body. However, until the latest discoveries led by University of Barcelona professor of genetics Manel Esteller, little was known as to exactly how it happened.

Medical scientists discovered that when certain molecular switches - known as microRNAs and which govern epithelial appearance of cancer cells - turn off, the tumour changes from one attached to nearby cells to a semi-liquid mass, known as mesenchymal.

"When these cellular appearance drivers [microRNAs] are not present, tumour cells change … and thus the tumour progresses," explained Dr Esteller of his findings, published in the latest edition of the Oncogene - Nature journal.

The study was conducted mainly on breast and colon tumours.

A recent innovation from the University of Munich's medical scientists and engineers, in which a monitoring device designed to be inserted into the body and observe tumour growth, could - with future development - be adapted to perform targeted cancer treatment, according to BBC News.

Posted by Jeanette Royston

1 Davalos, V, et. al., "Dynamic epigenetic regulation of the micro RNA-200 family mediates epithelial and mesenchymal transitions in human tumorigenesis". Oncogene. Monday August 29th 2011.

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