London: In a discovery that could open up
completely new strategies for tackling cancer, scientists have
found that healthy and cancerous cells in the body engage in
deadly battles in which the losers die finally.
Researchers at the University College London found for
the first time the gladiatorial contests between normal cells
and tumours in mammals and the losers were killed by a process
of "induced biological suicide" called apoptosis.
If the balance is in favour of the cancer cells, they
will cut a swathe through the healthy cells around them and
spread. But, if the healthy cells get the upper hand, they
will surround and eliminate the cancer cells, the scientists
Although such "cell wars" have been seen before in fruit
flies, scientists did not know until now that they also
occurred in mammals -- presumably including humans.
In future, experts believe, it may be possible to "tip
the balance" so that healthy cells win in the struggle with
cancer, the Daily Mail reported.
Dr Yasuyuki Fujita, who led the research, said: "This is
the first time that we have seen cancer cells being killed
simply by being surrounded by healthy cells.
"If we can build on this knowledge and improve our
understanding of how this happens, in the future we may be
able to find a way to enhance this ability and develop a
totally new way of preventing and treating cancer."
The research, reported in the journal Public Library of
Science (PLoS) Biology, has implications for treating common
solid tumours of the sort that form in the breast, prostate,
lung, stomach and bowel, the researchers said.
In experiments on laboratory-cultured dog kidney cells,
the scientists identified two key proteins that helped
determine the outcome of the contest between `good` and `bad`
They found that cancer cells that lacked the proteins
called Lgl and Mahjong were likely to end up as the losers.
The mutant cells then underwent cell suicide when they
were surrounded by cells in which the proteins were active.
In cells without Mahjong, over-producing Lgl did not
prevent apoptosis. But the same was not true in reverse --
cells missing Lgl did not self-destruct when they had a
surfeit of Mahjong, the scientists found.