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Researchers Turn Breast Cancer Cells Into Fat To Stop It Spreading

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Researchers have been able to 'coax' human breast cells to turn into harmless fat cells in a new proof-of-concept study in mice. Senior author Gerhard Christofori, a biochemist at the University of Basel, in Switzerland, as well as a team of other researchers published their findings in the journal Cancer Cell.

To accomplish this feat, the team exploited a weird pathway that metastasising cancer cells have. When we have a cut, or when a fetus is growing organs, our epithelium tissue can transform into a stem cell called mesenchyme and then reform into whatever cells our body needs to heal or in the case of a fetus, grow body parts. This process is called epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and it is essential for embryonic development.

Unfortunately, cancer can also use this process, and it's counterpart, MET (mesenchymal‐to‐epithelial transition), to spread throughout the body and metastasise.