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Georgetown researchers lead discovery expected to significantly change biomedical research
Date:12/18/2011

WASHINGTON, D.C.-- In a major step that could revolutionize biomedical research, scientists have discovered a way to keep normal cells as well as tumor cells taken from an individual cancer patient alive in the laboratory which previously had not been possible. Normal cells usually die in the lab after dividing only a few times, and many common cancers will not grow, unaltered, outside of the body.

This new technique, described today online in the American Journal of Pathology, could be the critical advance that ushers in a new era of personalized cancer medicine, and has potential application in regenerative medicine, says the study's senior investigator, Richard Schlegel, M.D., Ph.D., chairman of the department of pathology at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, a part of Georgetown University Medical Center.

"Because every tumor is unique, this advance will make it possible for an oncologist to find the right therapies that both kills a patient's cancer and spares normal cells from toxicity," he says. "We can test resistance as well chemosensitivity to single or combination therapies directly on the cancer cell itself."

The research team, which also includes several scientists from the National Institutes of Health, found that adding two different substances to cancer and normal cells in a laboratory pushes them to morph into stem-like cells adult cells from which other cells are made.

The two substances are a Rho kinase (ROCK) inhibitor and fibroblast feeder cells. ROCK inhibitors help stop cell movement, but it is unclear why this agent turns on stem cell attributes, Schlegel says. His co-investigator Alison McBride, Ph.D., of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, had discovered that a ROCK inhibitor allowed skin cells (keratinocytes) to reproduce in the laboratory while feeder cells kept them alive.

The Georgetown researchers 13 investigators in the departments of p
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Contact: Karen Mallet
km463@georgetown.edu
Georgetown University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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