Feb. 25 - Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have managed to change the shape of deadly cancer cells, removing their ability to spread through the body. The work is in its infancy but could eventually lead to the targeted morphing of cancer cells to stop them dead in their tracks. Ben Gruber reports.
This is a brain tumor cell as seen under a powerful microscope, but it represents a new weapon in the fight against cancer. Unlike ordinary cancer cells, this one has been reconfigured into a form that limits its ability to move and therefore, to spread. A team led by Dr. Panos Anastasiadis of the Mayo Clinic, has found a way to inhibit proteins within the cell that would normally give it a sense of direction. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. PANOS ANASTASIADIS, (PRONOUNCER: ANA-STA-SEEADIS), CHAIR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF CANCER BIOLOGY, MAYO CLINIC, SAYING: "It is not any different than your car. So it has a front end and a rear end and it has a direction in which it is going. The cell needs to have a transmission, it needs to have a power source, it needs to have steering. All of those things are essential for it to go from one place to another." Cancer cells become deadly when they spread to vital organs. But if the specific proteins are disabled, Anastasiadas says the cells are unable to travel. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. PANOS ANASTASIADIS, (PRONOUNCER: ANA-STA-SEEADIS), CHAIR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF CANCER BIOLOGY, MAYO CLINIC, SAYING: "When we depleted this protein from cancer cells, the cells changed their shape and it was a very dramatic change actually. They changed from a bipolar cell that has a front and an end to a fried egg we call it, a phenotype. These cells look, they are totally rounded, they are very flat and they really have no idea where to go." And by not knowing where to go, the cancer can not spread. Dr. Anastasiadis says the research is still in its first phases but its promise is significant. He hopes that in the not too distant future changing the shape of the cells will also change the odds... for people with cancer.