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All cancer cells are not created equal
Date:5/15/2012

A study from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers suggests that specific populations of tumor cells have different roles in the process by which tumors make new copies of themselves and grow. In their report in the May 15 issue of Cancer Cell, researchers identify a tumor-propagating cell required for the growth of a pediatric muscle tumor in a zebrafish model and also show that another, more-differentiated tumor cell must first travel to sites of new tumor growth to prepare an environment that supports metastatic growth.

"Most investigators have thought that tumor-propagating cells what are sometimes called cancer stem cells must be the first colonizing cells that travel from the primary tumor to start the process of local invasion and metastasis, but in this model, this is simply not the case," says David Langenau, PhD, of the MGH Department of Pathology and Center for Cancer Research, who led the study. "Instead, the colonizing cells lack the ability to divide and instead prime newly infiltrated regions for the eventual recruitment of slow-moving cancer stem cells. It will be important to test how broadly this phenomenon is found in a diversity of animal and human cancers."

Langenau's team has long been using zebrafish to study rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS), an aggressive pediatric cancer. In embryonic zebrafish, RMS can develop within 10 days, and since the tiny fish are transparent at that stage, fluorescent markers attached to particular cellular proteins can easily be imaged. The current study used these properties to monitor how specific populations of tumor cells develop and their role in initiating new tumor growth.

Previous research from the MGH team had discovered that RMS cells expressing marker proteins also seen on muscle progenitor cells had significantly more tumor-propagating potential than did other tumor cells. Fluorescently labeling proteins associated with different stages of cellular diff
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Contact: Sue McGreevey
smcgreevey@partners.org
617-724-2764
Massachusetts General Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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