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Scientists discover new technique to track cancer cell growth

Scientists discover new technique to track cancer cell growth

Researchers have observed how stem cell mutations quietly arise and spread throughout a widening field of the colon until they eventually predominate and become malignant. Using an innovative modelling system in mice, the researchers visually tagged colon cancer mutations by causing stem cells to glow. Mutations found in colon cancer were then visualised in the animals, illuminating a sort of tournament-to-the-death underway in the intestine in which one or another mutation prevailed over the others to become the driving force of a malignancy.

Joshua Snyder, PhD, assistant professor in the Departments of Surgery and Cell Biology at Duke University, said: "This study provides new insight into the previously invisible process in which mutant precancerous stem cells spread throughout the colon and seed cancer." The study was published in the journal of Nature Communications.

"Our technique sets a firm foundation for testing new therapies that interrupt this early, pre-malignant process. We hope to one day target and eliminate these stealth precancerous cells to prevent cancer," Snyder said. In this way, the researchers found key differences in how the intestinal habitats common to babies and adults grow pre-cancerous fields of mutant cells. At a critical period, newborns are sensitive to the effects of mutations within intestinal stem cells.

This insidiously seeds large fields of premalignant mutated cells throughout the intestine -- a process called field cancerization -- that dramatically increases cancer risk. These fields of mutated cells can grow and spread for years without being detected by current screening technologies; often, they remain harmless, but under proper conditions, these can rapidly become cancerous later in adults. Read More...

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