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Patchwork Solutions

Analysing the cellular spatial architecture of tumours reveals clues about cancer development and treatment

11 January 2022

Patchwork Solutions

There's great strength in diversity. Unfortunately that applies to cancer as well as people. A major challenge in tackling tumours is their variability, both within tumours and between them. Their unpredictable combination of characteristics makes finding a single effective treatment difficult. Recent studies have described this inconsistency by analysing different cells from tumours, but didn’t precisely locate these definitions within a tumour environment. A new study has characterised the cellular makeup in situ, painting a clear picture of the spatial layout and dynamics. Researchers analysed samples from adjacent non-cancerous tissue (top left), the edge of a tumour (centre), and within the tumour itself (right). They grouped the cells into clusters with common characteristics (bottom row, each unique cluster shown with a different colour). This created a map of a tumour’s diversity and revealed key information about the mechanisms of tumour development, and could improve personalised cancer treatments.

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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