Resilient Ovarian Cancer Cells

Ovarian cancer cell growth and treatment evasion now better understood

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Cancer outcomes are not black and white. There are constantly shifting variables that can change the course of disease. Scientists have scratched beneath the surface of shifts in ovarian cancer cells.

A recent study looked at the little world of ovarian cancer cells. New understandings about the factors that influence changes in ovarian cancer on the cellular level could alter the course of diagnosis and treatment for ovarian cancer in the future.

"Talk to your oncologist about ovarian cancer treatments."

Associate professor Yingqun Huang, MD, and Professor Nita J. Maihle, MD, from the Department of Obstetrics at Yale School of Medicine, worked with colleagues to investigate ovarian cancer cells.

In the study’s background, the authors mentioned that the latest research has shown cancer cells to be “highly plastic.” This means, depending on the conditions in which the cells exist, cancer cells can transition from one cell type to another.

Cancer stem cells can become differentiated non-cancer stem cells and then reverse back to cancer stem cells again. Cancer cells’ ability to transition gives them the power to evade treatment more successfully.

For the study, researchers developed two new ideas in ovarian cancer.

The first idea was that of a “cancer stem cell.” These cells are harder to find and more difficult to treat. They are at the root of the cancer and drive tumor growth.

Researchers identified proteins, Lin28 and Oct4, which they called “stem cell factors.” These two proteins can bind other proteins, such as the bone morphogenic protein 4 (BMP4), to the part of the cell that is responsible for encoding genetic material (mRNA).

The second idea had to do with the environment in which the cancer cells can reboot and transform.

Even if ovarian cancer therapies kill the majority of ovarian cancer cells, these few remaining stem cell factors can work together to get cancer growth back on track.

Dr. Maihle said, “Both concepts have particular relevance for the treatment of adult solid tumors such as ovarian cancer, which has been notoriously difficult to diagnose and treat. Ovarian cancer patients are plagued by recurrences of tumor cells that are resistant to chemotherapy, ultimately leading to uncontrolled cancer growth and death.”

Authors suggested these new concepts of cancer stem cells and the microenvironment in which they can reboot will pave the way for new cancer treatments.

This study was published in January in Cell Cycle.

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Review Date: 
January 14, 2013
Last Updated:
January 17, 2013