Cancer cells play dirty, using all kinds of tricks to multiply and spread throughout the body. For instance, ovarian cancer cells trick the healthy fibroblasts around them to alter their production of three microRNAs—small strands of genetic material that are important regulators of gene expression. This turns the healthy cells into cancerous ones that pump out chemical signals telling cancer cells to multiply, invade healthy tissues and travel to distant sites in the abdomen, like a general commanding an evil army.
In the December issue of the American Association for Cancer Research journal Cancer Discovery, a team of researchers including Ernst Lengyel, MD, PhD, pinpointed exactly how ovarian cancer cells do this dirty work, opening up new possibilities for treatment. As Langyel notes in a press release, the stakes couldn’t be higher:
“With ovarian cancer,” Lengyel added, “we desperately need new treatments. “There have been no new approaches introduced into the clinic for years, and thus no major improvements in patient survival.”
Mitra AK, Zillhardt M, Hua Y, Tiwari P, Murmann AE, Peter ME, & Lengyel E (2012). MicroRNAs Reprogram Normal Fibroblasts into Cancer-Associated Fibroblasts in Ovarian Cancer. Cancer discovery PMID: 23171795