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Source: iStock

Researchers Turn Breast Cancer Cells Into Fat To Stop It Spreading

By Mark Pygas

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.