Healthy and malignant cells engage in grand and deadly battles for control of the body, a report has claimed, potentially opening up whole new strategies for fighting cancer.
A team of scientists from the Medical Research Council at the University of London found that the rival cells fight each other in epic gladiatorial contests, with the victors taking over the disputed section of the body and the losers being exterminated through a kind of induced mass suicide known as apoptosis.
The tide of the battle is decided by the balance of genes and proteins on either side, the winners tearing through and surrounding their victims, then spreading until they die.
While they have already been observed in fruit flies, the report is the first to confirm that the so-called “cell wars” occur in mammals.
Scientists are hopeful the research could one day be used to aid the healthy cells in the fight, tipping the balance in their favour, especially with regards to common solid tumours in the breast, prostate, lung, stomach and bowel.
Study leader Dr Yasuyuki Fujita said: “This is the first time that we have seen cancer cells being killed simply by being surrounded by healthy cells.
“If we can build on this knowledge and improve our understanding of how this happens, in the future we may be able to find a way to enhance this ability and develop a totally new way of preventing and treating cancer.”
The research was published in the online journal Public Library of Science Biology.
Copyright Press Association 2010