How breast cancer cells outsmart chemotherapy survival

Doctors, scientists, and cancer specialists, like surgeons, immunologists, radiologists, or oncologists, can use various methods such as surgery, immunotherapy, radiotherapy, or chemotherapy to treat breast cancer. Despite these complex treatments, there are times when cancer cells persist without a clear explanation. That’s why researchers from the NUS Center for Cancer Research and the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore (NUS Medicine) spent ten years exploring this topic.

Their findings, published in the Molecular Cancer journal, stem from a study involving samples from 63 patients at different stages of breast cancer. The researchers discovered that a molecule, known as “miR-125b,” plays a crucial role in the survival of cancer cells.

Understanding cancer cells’ altruistic behaviour

The molecule “miR-125b” becomes significant in breast cancer cells. If it’s present in large quantities, it collaborates with surrounding cancer cells, sacrificing itself to help them survive chemotherapy. Contrary to common belief, this study challenges the idea that cancer cells are solely focused on their own survival. Instead, it reveals that cancer cells can exhibit altruistic behaviour, sacrificing their ability to multiply to support the growth of other cancer cells.

Discovery of a pathway for improved breast cancer treatment

Through a signalling pathway called “NF-κB,” these so-called “altruistic” cancer cells, expressing high levels of “miR-125b,” undergo a reduction in proliferation. Paradoxically, this same signalling process leads these altruistic cancer cells to release substances – proteins known as IGFBP2 and CCL28 – that enhance the tolerance to chemotherapy throughout the cancerous tumour. Eliminating these altruistic cells might be a potential treatment approach.

Associate Professor Leong Sai Mun from the Department of Pathology emphasises the need to “specifically target” regenerating cancer cells. He suggests that treatments should focus on these cooperative behaviours among cancer cells to more effectively destroy them. For instance, treatment methods should include mechanisms preventing surrounding cancer cells from reacting and benefiting from the sacrificial cells. This discovery holds promise for potential therapeutic targets and represents a step forward in understanding cancer at a more accessible level for those new to the subject.

This article was syndicated from Marie Claire France
Translated and adapted by Praise Vandeh, Marie Claire Nigeria Content Writer

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