SEP 04, 2019 10:21 AM PDT

The role of sleeper cells in metastasis

New research published in the journal Nature Communications aims to explain why some breast cancers recur following cancer treatment. According to collaborating researchers from Imperial College London, the University of Milan in Italy, and Yonsei University College of Medicine in Seoul, South Korea, breast cancer recurrence may be a result of the effect of adjuvant endocrine hormone therapy on some cancer cells.

"For a long time, scientists have debated whether hormone therapies — which are a very effective treatment and save millions of lives — work by killing breast cancer cells, or whether the drugs flip them into a dormant 'sleeper' state," explains Luca Magnani, from Imperial College London. "This is an important question as hormone treatments are used on the majority of breast cancers," he notes.

Through an analysis of roughly 50,000 single cells of human breast cancer, the researchers were able to grasp a more in-depth understanding of the role that sleeper cells play in metastasis. Nevertheless, say the authors, more investigation will be needed to fully comprehend the factors in play.

"Our findings suggest the drugs may actually kill some cells and switch others into this sleeper state. If we can unlock the secrets of these dormant cells, we may be able to find a way of preventing cancer coming back, either by holding the cells in permanent sleep mode or by waking them up and killing them," explains Magnani.

Why does breast cancer recur after treatment? Photo: Pixabay

Dr. Rachel Shaw, who is the research information manager at Cancer Research UK, commented that the research could have potential for the development of new treatment methods. "Although treatments for breast cancer are usually successful, cancer returns for some women, often bringing with it a poorer prognosis. Figuring out why breast cancer sometimes comes back is essential to help us develop better treatments and prevent this from happening," she said.

"This study highlights a key route researchers can now explore to tackle 'sleeping' cancer cells that can wake up years after treatment, which could potentially save the lives of many more women with the disease," she hypothesizes.

Sources: Medical News TodayNature Communications

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
JAN 26, 2020
Cancer
JAN 26, 2020
Using senolytics to treat cancer
New research published in Nature Metabolism proposes using an already existing drug – a cardiac glycoside called ouabain – as a senolytic to ki...
JAN 26, 2020
Cancer
JAN 26, 2020
Why do colder, wetter climates have a higher prevalence of cancer?
You might want to sit down, because this news may come as a surprise: researchers have found an association between cold, wet climates and increased cancer...
JAN 26, 2020
Cancer
JAN 26, 2020
Physical exercise could halve the risk of prostate cancer
New research suggests physical activity could act as a tool to prevent increased risk for prostate cancer. The research comes from scientists at the U...
JAN 26, 2020
Cancer
JAN 26, 2020
Common antibiotic could improve radiation therapy
Have you ever taken the antibiotic vancomycin? As a commonly prescribed antibiotic for colitis and infections caused by Clostridium difficile, vancomycin i...
JAN 26, 2020
Cancer
JAN 26, 2020
Good news for patients with testicular cancer!
Good news for patients with testicular cancer! A new clinical trial has shown that using just half of the quantity of chemotherapy traditionally administer...
JAN 26, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
JAN 26, 2020
Disrupting Leukemia's Deadly Reliance on Vitamin B6
Acute Myeloid Leukemia is a cancer of the blood that starts in the bone marrow, where the stem cells that produce blood cells reside, and rapidly moves to the blood....
Loading Comments...