Interesting Science This Week. Week 1

Originally posted on June 13, 2016 at my blogger site


There are two types of tumors that are formed in the body. Benign tumors, as the name suggests, aren’t generally dangerous. They are compact, grow slowly, tend to remain in the organ where they are formed and do not spread to other organs. Malignant tumors, on the other hand, are responsible for causing cancer in the body. The cell mass of these tumors is generally loose, grows uncontrollably and the cells tend to spread to other tissues where they cause the formation of more tumors. The process of tumor cells spreading to other organs is called metastasis. Metastatic cells of tumors, also stem-cell like cancer cells (SCLCCs) or tumor-repopulating cells (TRCs), tend to be softer and more deformable than the differentiated cells in the tumor. The TRCs are also more resistant to drugs than differentiated tumor cells which reduces the efficacy of chemotherapy and prevents complete elimination of cancer, often leading to relapse. In a recent paper published in the journal Cell Research, a procedure has been described that could potentially help in combating this drug resistance in TRCs. The researchers in this work produced microparticles packaged with anti-tumor drugs from tumor cells in which programmed cell death was induced. Microparticles are 0.1 – 1 micrometer size vesicles derived from the plasma membrane of induced cells (1 micrometer = 1/1000000 of a meter). In subsequent analysis it was found that these drug-packaged microparticles are able to selectively induce death in TRCs than differentiated tumor cells because of their greater deformability. Microparticle treatment was also able to prevent development of drug resistance. In clinical trials, treatment of cancer patients with these microparticles was able to eliminate the cancer cells in malignant fluids to a large extent providing hope for their future therapeutic utility in combating the drug resistance of SCLCCs.


Ma et. al., Cell Research (2016) 26:713–727. doi:10.1038/cr.2016.53

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