Cancer Cell Repair Mechanism May Lead to New Treatments

Ruptured cancerous cells are able to repair themselves to prevent cell death.

The ability of cancer cells to pass through tight areas and even repair itself when the cell’s outer lining is ruptured offers hope for the development of diagnostic solutions and treatment for cancer patients.

Although the deformation and rupturing of cancerous cells can lead to cell death, researchers found in a recent study that approximately 90% of the time, cells are able to repair themselves.

“You have so many migrating cells that even if a small fraction of them picks up a mutation, it means the cancer is evolving,” said lead researcher Jan Lammerding. “The good part is, this rupturing also makes the cancer cell vulnerable. Most cells in the body stay in place, and it's presumably mostly cancer cells that are moving around. So if we can block the mechanisms that allow them to repair themselves, then we potentially could target metastatic cancer cells.”

In a study published in the journal Science, researchers analyzed 2 factors in the cellular migration process, focusing on the cell’s damaged DNA and the rupturing of the nuclear envelope. In order to track the proteins found in the nuclei that eventually fall into the cell body when the nucleus ruptures, green and red fluorescent proteins were used.

“We're still trying to find out if there are differences between cells, and a lot of what we see is very similar between normal cells and cancer cells,” Lammerding said. “Now that we kind of know what we're looking for, now that we know the molecular pathways that these work in, could we then specifically target invasive cancer cells and not have the sledgehammer that hits everything?”