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Combination therapy converts cancer cells into fat cells

Tuesday January 15th, 2019

Scientists have found a drug combination that can turn breast cancer cells into fat cells, it has been announced.

Researchers at the University of Basel, Switzerland, report in the latest edition of Cancer Cell that in mice, Rosiglitazone and Trametinib forced malignant breast cancer cells to turn into fat cells, preventing the formation of metastases.

Professor Gerhard Christofori, of the University's Department of Biomedicine, said that malignant cancer cells exhibit a high degree plasticity as they undergo the cellular epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) programme and his team have exploited this property to develop a new therapeutic approach.

In experiments on mice, they succeeded in using the two drugs to convert breast cancer cells, which divide quickly and form metastases, into fat cells that can no longer divide and can barely be differentiated from normal fat cells.

This stops the tumour from invading the neighbouring tissue and blood vessels, and no further metastases can form.

“In future, this innovative therapeutic approach could be used in combination with conventional chemotherapy to suppress both primary tumour growth and the formation of deadly metastases," he said.

"The breast cancer cells that underwent an EMT not only differentiated into fat cells, but also completely stopped proliferating.

"As far as we can tell from long-term culture experiments, the cancer cells-turned-fat cells remain fat cells and do not revert back to breast cancer cells.”

The research findings show that malignant cancer cells - like stem cells - exhibit a high degree of cell plasticity, which can be exploited for therapeutic purposes.

Ishay Ronen D, Diepenbruck M, Kalathur R et al. Gain Fat—Lose Metastasis: Converting Invasive Breast Cancer Cells into Adipocytes Inhibits Cancer Metastasis. Cancer Cell 14 January 2019.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ccell.2018.12.002

Tags: Cancer | Europe | Pharmaceuticals | Women's Health & Gynaecology

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