30 April 2007

Forcing Cancer to Revert to Normal Cells

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the developed western world, and the leading cause of disability. What if physicians could simply "turn back the clock" on cancer, and make the cancer cells into normal cells?
Now, in the American Association of Anatomists’ plenary lecture and symposium, at Experimental Biology 2007 in Washington, DC, Dr. Hendrix describes new research that used an innovative experimental approach to provide unique insights into how scientists can change human metastatic melanoma cells back to normal-like skin cells - by exposing the tumor cells to the embryonic microenvironment of human embryonic stem cells, the zebra fish and the chick embryo.

Dr. Hendrix’s plenary lecture on April 29 is a highlight of the scientific program of the American Association of Anatomists. Her presentation is titled "the convergence of embryonic and cancer signaling pathways: role in tumor cell plasticity." Plasticity refers to the ability of the tumor cell, like the embryonic cell, to express or change into multiple, different types of cells.

....When aggressive melanoma and other tumor cells (recent findings also report Nodal expression in breast cancer and testicular cancer) regain the ability to express a potent embryonic morphogen like Nodal, the presence of the Nodal and the signals it sends and receives appear to play a key role in tumor cell plasticity and progression.

Most noteworthy, Dr. Hendrix’s team’s also has shown that inhibition of Nodal signaling leads to a reduction in melanoma cell invasiveness and ability to create new tumors. In fact, with inhibition of Nodal, the metastatic melanoma cells are reverted to a more benign skin cell without the ability to form tumors.
More details at source

After fertilisation of the egg, early cells are unspecialised. With development of the embryo, cells differentiate to form specialised tissues and organs. Recently it has been learned that cells can de-differentiate--or go back to simpler cell types. It is possible to create stem cells from differentiated cells, just as cancer cells can be regressed to normal cells.

There is a startling variety of cell types in the human body. But each cell type possesses essentially the same DNA as all other cell types. Differentiation of cells dictates which genes can be expressed. De-differentiation turns back the clock. From cancer to normal cells. From normal cells to stem cells.

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