Once a week.
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
Cancer cells hibernate to survive chemotherapy, finds study
Researchers discover that cancer cells go into hibernation to avoid chemotherapy effects.
- Cancer cells go into a state similar to hibernation when attacked by chemotherapy.
- The low-energy state is similar to diapause—the embryonic survival strategy of over a 100 species of mammals.
- Researchers hope to use these findings to develop new cancer-fighting therapies.
When attacked by chemotherapy, all cancer cells have the ability to start hibernating in order to wait out the threat, finds new research. The cancer cells hijack an evolutionary survival mechanism to transition into a state of "rest" until chemotherapy stops. Devising therapies to target the cells in this slow-dividing state can prevent the cancer from regrowing.
The discovery was made by Dr. Catherine O'Brien and the team from the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Canada. Professor O'Brien, who teaches in the Department of Surgery at the University of Toronto, described that the tumor acts "like a whole organism, able to go into a slow-dividing state, conserving energy to help it survive."
She compared this to animals who enter hibernation to get through difficult environmental conditions. Dr. Aaron Schimmer, Director of the Research Institute and Senior Scientist at the Princess Margaret, was even more specific, sharing that the behavior of the cells was akin to that of "bears in winter."
"We never actually knew that cancer cells were like hibernating bears," explained Schimmer. "This study also tells us how to target these sleeping bears so they don't hibernate and wake up to come back later, unexpectedly."
He thinks this adaptation by the cells can be the key cause of resistance to drugs.
Cancer cells may go to into diapause, entering a drug-tolerant persister (DTP) state.
The scientists arrived at their observations by observing human colorectal cancer cells, which were treated with chemotherapy in a petri dish. This caused the cells to go into a slow-dividing state during which they ceased expanding and needed little nutrition. Such a reaction continued as long as chemotherapy was present.
The low-energy state of the cells was similar to diapause—the embryonic survival strategy of over a 100 species of mammals. They protect embryos by keeping them inside their bodies during extreme situations of very high or very low temperatures, or when sustenance is not available. Minimal cell division takes place when animals are in this state, while their metabolism slows to a crawl.
"The cancer cells are able to hijack this evolutionarily conserved survival strategy, even as it seems to be lost to humans," pointed out Dr. O'Brien.
When the cells are in this state, they activate a cellular process known as autophagy (means "self-devouring"). While this is taking place, and if no other nutrients are present, the cell feeds on its own proteins and other cellular parts to survive. Observing that, the scientists tried impeding autophagy and found that the cancer cells were destroyed, succumbing to chemotherapy. Knowing this can lead to new therapies, according to O'Brien, who proposed that "We need to target cancer cells while they are in this slow-cycling, vulnerable state before they acquire the genetic mutations that drive drug-resistance."
Check out the new study published in Cell.
- Chemotherapy study identifies cancer patients that won't respond to ... ›
- Chemotherapy resistance: Drug makes tumors more prone to chemo ... ›
- Tasmanian devils are evolving to fight facial cancer - Big Think ›
Physicist Frank Wilczek proposes new methods of searching for extraterrestrial life.
- Nobel Prize-winning physicist Frank Wilczek thinks we are not searching for aliens correctly.
- Instead of sending out and listening for signals, he proposes two new methods of looking for extraterrestrials.
- Spotting anomalies in planet temperature and atmosphere could yield clues of alien life, says the physicist.
1. Atmosphere chemistry<p>Like we found out with our own effect on the Earth's atmosphere, making a <a href="https://ozonewatch.gsfc.nasa.gov/facts/hole_SH.html" target="_blank">hole in the ozone layer</a>, the gases around a planet can be impacted by its inhabitants. "Atmospheres are especially significant in the search for alien life," <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/looking-for-signs-of-alien-technology-11581605907" target="_blank">writes Wilczek</a> "because they might be affected by biological processes, the way that photosynthesis on Earth produces nearly all of our planet's atmospheric oxygen."</p><p>But while astrobiology can provide invaluable clues, so can looking for the signs of alien technology, which can also be manifested in the atmosphere. An advanced alien civilization might be colonizing other planets, turning their atmospheres to resemble the home planets. This makes sense considering our own plans to terraform other planets like Mars to allow us to breathe there. Elon Musk even <a href="https://www.space.com/elon-musk-serious-nuke-mars-terraforming.html" target="_blank">wants to nuke the red planet.</a></p>
The Most Beautiful Equation: How Wilczek Got His Nobel<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="ijBZzuI2" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="061a3de613c45f42b05432a2949e7caa"> <div id="botr_ijBZzuI2_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/ijBZzuI2-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/ijBZzuI2-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/ijBZzuI2-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
2. Planet temperatures<p>Wilczek also floats another idea - what if an alien civilization created a greenhouse effect to raise the temperature of a planet? For example, if extraterrestrials were currently researching Earth, they would likely notice the increased levels of carbon dioxide that are <a href="https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/overview-greenhouse-gases" target="_blank">heating up</a> our atmosphere. Similarly, we can looks for such signs around the exoplanets.</p><p>An advanced civilization might also be heating up planets to raise their temperatures to uncover resources and make them more habitable. Unfreezing water might be one great reason to turn up the thermostat. </p><p>Unusually high temperatures can also be caused by alien manufacturing and the use of artificial energy sources like nuclear fission or fusion, suggests the scientist. Structures like the hypothetical <a href="https://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/this-mind-bending-scale-predicts-the-power-of-advanced-civilizations" target="_self">Dyson spheres</a>, which could be used to harvest energy from stars, can be particularly noticeable. </p>
Wilczek: Why 'Change without Change' Is One of the Fundamental Principles of the ...<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="KrUgLGWm" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="cc13c3c65924439c1992935c61ab8977"> <div id="botr_KrUgLGWm_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/KrUgLGWm-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/KrUgLGWm-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/KrUgLGWm-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
As patients approached death, many had dreams and visions of deceased loved ones.
One of the most devastating elements of the coronavirus pandemic has been the inability to personally care for loved ones who have fallen ill.
Research reveals a new evolutionary feature that separates humans from other primates.
- Researchers find a new feature of human evolution.
- Humans have evolved to use less water per day than other primates.
- The nose is one of the factors that allows humans to be water efficient.
A model of water turnover for humans and chimpanzees who have similar fat free mass and body water pools.
Credit: Current Biology
Being skeptical isn't just about being contrarian. It's about asking the right questions of ourselves and others to gain understanding.