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Cutting Off Cancer

Tumour cells can connect to surrounding tissue via protrusions called cytonemes

30 December 2019

Cutting Off Cancer

Cancer cells don’t do their dirty work alone. They get help. The growth of many tumours depends on their interactions with healthy cells in the surrounding environment, but how they exchange signals and material with them is not well understood. One way cells can communicate with each other is by forming temporary connections along thin protrusions called cytonemes. Could tumours hijack this trick for themselves? To investigate, researchers studied tumours in fruit flies (green in the wing section pictured, with normal muscle cells in red) and found that cytonemes (close up on the right) connecting them to surrounding tissues are essential for tumour growth. Crucially, inhibiting the growth and activity of these cytonemes cured the flies of otherwise lethal tumours, raising hopes that this could provide a new way to cut cancer off from its support network, and eventually lead to new treatments for people with cancer.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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