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Researchers Aim to Turn Cancer Cells Against Each Other

What's the Latest Development?

Medical researchers at Johns Hopkins University say a new strategy is needed in cancer research, one that accounts for new developments in our understanding of how tumor cells function. Rather than kill off cells with lethal doses of poison, the researchers want to examine how individual tumor cells communicate with each other to spread while they neutralize the body's immune system. "The researchers think that it might be possible to turn this crosstalk of tumor cells against them, inducing the cells to die or split apart spontaneously."

What's the Big Idea?

Physicist Eshel Ben-Jacob of Tel Aviv University argues that many single-celled organisms, whether they are tumor cells or gut bacteria, show a rudimentary form of social intelligence—"an ability to act collectively in ways that adapt to the prevailing conditions, learn from experience and solve problems, all with the 'aim' of improving their chances of survival." Cancer cells are known to communicate in order to spread to new territory during metastasis. Thus it may be that further examining the social nature of cancer will yield more effective treatments.

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

 

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