Cancer Cells Turned to Harmless Fat

Rachel Rettner, Senior Writer for Live Science has offered information that studies have found cancer cells can be transformed into harmless fat in mouse studies.  Just think what it would do for our future if aggressive cancer cells could be turned into harmless fat. Well, I do not want cancer cells but I also do not want extra fat cells. They do not mention if its the good or the bad type fat cells. On another thought, I would never trust the fat cells that used to be cancer cells. A cancer cell is consider an abnormal cell so when it turns into something it was never originally suppose to be, is that still not abnormal?

Some Switzerland scientists claim they have done just that in their new study using mice.  Certain cancer cells during metastasis have a plasticity or adaptability that the researchers were able to coax breast cancer cells in mice into converting to fat cells.  They have accomplished this using a combination of two drugs.  Both of these are already approved for use in humans by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  It didn’t convert all the cancer cells but it did stop the cancer’s metastasis so that it did not spread to other parts of the body.

Even though this is preliminary findings and unclear if it will apply to people or even other types of cancer, it may be possible to apply to humans.  The report was published in the journal Cancer Cell.

Scientists believe that if future studies confirm this work, the therapy could be used in combination with conventional chemo to suppress the primary tumor growth and the formation of deadly metastases, according to senior study author Gerhard Christofori, a professor at the University of Basel’s Department of Biomedicine in Switzerland.

Cells undergo changes when metastasize that allow them to break free and spread.  Cells temporarily enter an immature state, such as what’s seen in stem cells, known as an epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT).  They are then in a highly plastic or adaptable state that may offer a window of opportunity for therapies to target the cells and force them to transform to a different cell type.

Researchers created a mouse model of human breast cancer by transplanting human breast cancer cells into the mammary fat pads of female mice.  The mice were then treated with two drugs: rosiglitazone that is used to treat type 2 diabetes and trametinib, an anti-cancer drug that inhibits the growth and spread of cancer cells.  They bind to receptors in fat tissue and play a role in many of the biological processes that includes the formation of mature fat cells.

When mice received this drug combination, the cancer cells that had broken free from the tumor changed into fat cells and it also suppressed the growth of the tumor and prevented further metastasis.

If they forced a mass of cancer cells undergoing EMT to turn into fat cells, this could reduce the tumor’s ability to evade chemo.  They will be testing their therapy drug combination with existing chemotherapies and will examine how it affects other types of cancer.

Dr Fredda Branyon