Scientists Find New Clue to How Cancer Tumors Form
Scientists at the University of Iowa say they've found a surprising new clue in how cancer tumors form in the body.
The research team discovered that a small minority of cancer cells actively recruits other cells -- including a lot of healthy cells -- into the tumor.
For the study, published in the American Journal of Cancer Research, the scientists analyzed 3-D recordings in real time of the movements of cancerous human breast tissue cells. They found that a small group of tumorigenic cells -- cells that form tumors -- extends a sort of cellular cable to grab neighboring cells, both healthy and cancerous, and reel them in to enlarge the tumor mass.
This may help explain why tumors contain such a large proportion of healthy as well as cancerous cells. The discovery suggests that the growth of a tumor is not simply a result of cells sticking together, but rather a case of tumor cells actively "recruiting" other cells.
In the new study, the team determined that as little as 5 percent tumorigenic cells can actively create a tumor by getting cancerous and healthy cells to clump together through forming cellular connections between them. This is the first time such a ratio has been discovered.
Senior author David Soll explained that the tumor mass grows as a result of cells being joined together by bridges made up of tumor cells. "There's nothing but tumorigenic cells in the bridge (between cells), and that's the discovery. The tumorigenic cells know what they're doing. They make tumors."
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