Basic Science: How do Cancer Cells Avoid Dying?

English: Cancer cells photographed by camera a...
Cancer cells photographed by camera attached to microscope in time-lapse manner. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A new study from researchers at the University of Notre Dame gives insight into how cancer cells may escape the cell death process. Spread to distant parts of the body (metastasis) relies on the ability of a cancer cell to evade the death process (anoikis). The cell should die when it detaches from the material around it (extracellular matrix). This new research revealed that cancer cells that are detached from their normal environment (for example, to spread distantly) rely on antioxidant enzymes to survive. These antioxidant enzymes may facilitate the survival of breast cancer cells after they detach.

My take: Someday, we may be able to target these antioxidant enzymes with new drugs, thus selectively killing metastasizing cancer cells.

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Harvard AB Yale MD UPenn Radiation Oncology Radiation Oncologist, Seattle area

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