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Breast cancer cells recruited to the dark side


Those slippery and adaptive cancer cells. Scientists have discovered that breast cancer cells have a unique ability to call out healthy cells and recruit them to the dark side. They have uncovered a way that cancer cells dodge the immune system and even use our defenses against us to promote tumor growth. If this discovery holds, there could be new methods of fighting the disease.

The research is published in the journal Cancer Research. They found high levels of the protein Hsp27 which are released from human breast cancer cells. The protein not only renders immune cells unresponsive to the tumor, but increases blood flow fueling tumor growth.

"Our study is very unique because we used human breast cancer cells, which are extremely difficult to get," said Asit De, PhD, lead author and research associate professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Rochester Medical Center. "The way tumor cells operate in mice is not identical to humans, so we need to do more of these types of human studies to confirm or reject cancer-related discoveries in mice."

Hsp27 is also released from breast tumor cells into the breast microenvironment, the area immediately around the tumor. Once outside the cells, Hsp27 transforms white blood cells called monocytes into cells known as macrophages, which do the opposite of what the cell is suppose to do: they help, rather than hurt, tumor cells. These particular macrophages may make human T cells indifferent to the tumor and the body's call to destroy it.

Elevated levels of Hsp27 have been found in the blood of patients with other types of cancer, such as liver and pancreatic cancer tumors.

De plans to continue his research on Hsp27. His plan is to figure out if blocking it will slow tumor growth.

Source: University of Rochester Medical Center, ScienceDaily


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