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Future Chemotherapy Could Target Tumor Cell Social Interactions

By BiotechDaily International staff writers
Posted on 11 Oct 2012
Collections of cancer cells - tumors- display many characteristics of communal communication and social interaction that typify collections of bacterial cells, and an international team of theoretical biologists have suggested that development of new cancer treatments should be based on attacking tumors at the level of these social interactions.

Investigators at Rice University (Houston, TX, USA), Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD, USA), and Tel Aviv University (Israel) suggested in a paper published in the September 2012 issue of the journal Trends in Microbiology that the communal behavior of bacteria represent a valuable model system for new perspectives and research directions in cancer chemotherapy. As an example they site the behavior of some types of cancer that revert to a dormant, unresponsive state when challenged by drug treatment. Absence of the drug stimulates a signaling process that reawakens the tumor.

“Cancer is a sophisticated enemy. There is growing evidence that cancer cells use advanced communications to work together to enslave normal cells, create metastases, resist drugs, and decoy the body’s immune system,” said first author Dr. Eshel Ben-Jacob, professor of physics at Tel Aviv University. “If we can break the communication code, we may be able to prevent the cells from going dormant or to reawaken them for a well-timed chemotherapeutic attack. This is just one example. Our extensive studies of the social lives of bacteria suggest a number of others, including sending signals that trigger the cancer cells to turn upon themselves and kill one another.”

Related Links:

Rice University
Johns Hopkins University
Tel Aviv University



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Image: representation of a protein (blue), which contains three zinc fingers in complex with DNA (orange). The coordinating amino acid residues and zinc ions (green) are highlighted (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

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