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Most of us know or know of someone battling cancer.
Most of us also know that treatments exist that shrink the tumor, but more often than not, they do not completely make them disappear. The issue of the disease coming back, and for cells to severely multiply, remains high.
There are some cancers that are so aggressive that little can even be done at all.
The lab of Andreas Androutsellis-Theotokis at the Department of Internal Medicine III (MK3) at the Technische Universität Dresden, in Germany had previously made light of a new molecular mechanism that controls regeneration of various tissues after injury.
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The reason this could be useful in this research is because of the structure of the cells. In order to understand how some cancer cells evade therapy, and manage to grow, stay alive and divide, and perhaps produce more cells, we must first take a look at the molecular machinery inside these cancer cells.
What do we know so far about cancerous tumors?
So far, scientists have identified mechanisms within this machinery. Drugs and treatments have been created in order to block cancer cells from dividing, and sometimes killing them. However, these treatments have not yet been able to kill all the cells within a cancerous tumor.
What this means is that some cancer cells can use alternative mechanisms and are not being affected by the current treatments we know of. They evade therapy and regenerate, leading to recurrence of the disease.
Some cancer cells evading current therapies
Research Fellow Steve Poser and colleagues have demonstrated that by testing cells from patients with aggressive brain cancer, some cells can switch from using the established molecular mechanisms to a new one. Depending on the mechanism being used, the cells are adapting to different treatments.
As published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, the team of scientists realised they could block the evasion route of the cancer cells.
What they did was observe which genes are turned on and off, which mechanical properties are affected, and discovered which treatments can kill the cells specifically when the new molecular mechanism is in use.
These treatments are already in use and approved for other medical issues (not cancer). The hope is that they would also be approved and repurposed for oncology. The team is currently working on this.
The study provides a new logic and method to identify treatments that kill these hard-to-kill cancer cells, with the hope of using these treatments to treat them in the future.