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
SEP 18, 2019
Drug Discovery
SEP 18, 2019
Breakthrough Synthesis Advances Potent Anti-Cancer Agent
What is now known as a "landmark in drug discovery", Harvard chemists have succeeded in synthesizing halichondrin, found naturally in sea sponges...
SEP 18, 2019
Cancer
SEP 18, 2019
Understanding osteosarcoma in kids and dogs
New research published in the Nature journal, Communications Biology, shows evidence for a comparative study that scientists could use to improve treatment...
SEP 18, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
SEP 18, 2019
A Combination of Genetic Mutations Often Seen in Endometrial Cancer is IDed
Powerful genetic sequencing technologies are helping researchers learn more about how changes or errors in genes are linked to disease....
SEP 18, 2019
Cancer
SEP 18, 2019
Women with sleep apnea have higher rates of cancer
New research published in the European Respiratory Journal analyzed data on 20,000 adults with sleep apnea to conclude that women with severe sleep apnea h...
SEP 18, 2019
Cancer
SEP 18, 2019
Antibiotic use associated with bowel cancer
From 2000–2010, global consumption of antibiotics rose by 35% up to 70 billion doses each year. Although doctors are more cautious to prescribe antib...
SEP 18, 2019
Cancer
SEP 18, 2019
Infant with leukemia saved by liver cancer drug
A young child just months old recently successfully received cancer treatment for an uncommon type of leukemia. The drug used in the treatment was not a ta...
Loading Comments...