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Cancer cells use a mutant gene to enrol healthy cells into helping spread disease

Researchers have shed light on how cancer cells and normal cells communicate – work that could open paths to new treatment.

Researchers have shed light on how cancer cells and normal cells communicate – work that could open paths to new treatment.

‘Good’ cells are persuaded to release growth signals that cancer cells can use to multiply, a study has found.

Scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research in London and the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute found that faulty versions of the KRAS gene – often mutated in cancer – can affect healthy tissue.

Normally, the KRAS gene occasionally tells a cell to divide. When mutated, the gene becomes hyperactive and helps drive cancer cells’ rapid, uncontrolled growth.

In the new study, researchers found that mutated KRAS also plays an important role in turning healthy ‘stromal cells’ into cancer’s allies.

The study discovered a communication loop with a cancer-causing gene controlling cancer via healthy stromal cells.

The researchers studied cells from a type of pancreatic cancer responsible for 9,000 UK deaths a year.

By monitoring proteins, they discovered that healthy cells double the capacity for KRAS to drive malignant behaviour in the cancer cells.

Author Chris Tape said: ‘Cancer cells bully their healthy neighbours into helping them.’

Reference

Tape CJ et al (2016) Oncogenic KRAS regulates tumor cell signaling via stromal reciprocation. Cell.

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