How cancer cells are 'put back together'

Posted Apr 12, 2014 by Tim Sandle
As some cancer cells are destroyed they can sometimes survive and piece themselves back together. The results offer insight on how cancer cells might be able to withstand chemotherapy.
Cervical gland showing an area of high grade epithelial dysplasia (CIN3). Asymptomatic patient  biop...
Cervical gland showing an area of high grade epithelial dysplasia (CIN3). Asymptomatic patient, biopsy taken after a routine PAP smear was found to be abnormal.
Wikimedia Commons/Haymanj
The types of cancer cells that can withstand destruction when subject to processes like chemotherapy are those with heightened autophagy. Autophagy is a normal physiological process in the body that deals with destruction of cells in the body. Autophagy may provide an alternate source of intracellular building blocks and substrates that may generate energy to enable continuous cell survival.
Based on this, Andrew Thorburn, the senior author of the study and the deputy director of the University of Colorado Cancer Center, indicates in a research note: "The implication here is that if you inhibit autophagy you'd make this less likely to happen, i.e. when you kill cancer cells they would stay dead."
He goes on to add: “Autophagy is complex and as yet not fully understood. But now that we see a molecular mechanism whereby cell-fate can be determined by autophagy, we hope to discover patient populations that could benefit from drugs that inhibit this action.”
The results of the study have been published in the journal Cell Reports and presented at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) meeting in San Diego, California.