Scientists turn breast cancer cells into fat, halts deadly spread

August 12, 2019

In an innovative approach to cancer therapy, Swiss scientists have successfully coaxed human breast cancer cells to turn into fat cells, to prevent them from metastasising and taking over the body.

Typically, epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), when the epithelial cells change into a mesenchyme stem cell and then morphs into whatever cell the body needs, and its opposite pathway, mesenchymal‐epithelial transition (MET), is used by aggressive cancers to spread throughout the body. But in a process called adipogenesis, which occurred as the scientists treated diseased mice with a known diabetic drug and cancer treatment, the cancer cells did not transition and metastasise but instead changed into fat cells.

Gerhard Christofori, a biochemist at the University of Basel, Switzerland, said the breast cancer cells that underwent an EMT not only differentiated into fat cells, but also completely stopped proliferating and did not revert back to breast cancer cells.

The drugs responsible increases the transition process of cancer cells into stem cells and also increases the conversion of those stem cells into fat cells. As they have already been approved for use by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the approach is set for the clinical trial stage.

At present, the scientists are investigating whether their therapy would work combined with existing chemotherapy, and whether it would apply to other types of cancers as well.

Christofori explains that“the new approach could be used in combination with conventional chemotherapy against primary tumour formation and provide a better repressive effect against deadly metastases.”

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Category: Features, Health alert

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