Breast Cancer Cells Can Be Turned into Harmless Fat Cells in Mice, Study Shows

Breast Cancer Cells Can Be Turned into Harmless Fat Cells in Mice, Study Shows
With the right molecular cues, breast cancer cells can be converted into harmless fat cells, preventing tumors from progressing and spreading, a study in mice shows. The study, "Gain Fat-Lose Metastasis: Converting Invasive Breast Cancer Cells into Adipocytes Inhibits Cancer Metastasis," was published in Cancer Cell. One of the reasons cancer can be so hard to treat is that tumors and the cells in them tend to be very plastic, meaning they can quickly change in response to external cues. This is how tumors can become resistant to chemotherapy and how some cells are able to spread. In particular, a process call epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is known to play a critical role in cancer cells' ability to spread throughout the body. During EMT, a cell becomes de-differentiated, meaning that it stops taking on the traits of a specific cell type — like a breast cancer cell — and begins to behave more like a stem cell. In many ways, this isn't a good thing, because it can lead to metastases that are often the cause of patient death — yet researchers wondered whether the tumors might be exposing a weakness when they undergo EMT. After all, stem cells can, with the right molecular signals, be induced to differentiate into many kinds of cells. Might a cancer cell undergoing EMT be similarly susceptible to being turned into a harmless cell type? The researchers first demonstrated that, using the right molecular cues, breast cancer cells that had undergone EMT could be converted i
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