Washington: A new research has explained how studying the diversity of cancer cells could help turn off mutations in cancer cells and strip their adaptability to drugs.
Researchers at Salk Institute used a small pipette to extract and analyze the RNA of individual breast cancer cells to track a cancer cell line's evolution.
The new work showed how variations in breast cancer cells' RNA, the molecule that decodes genes and produces proteins, helps the cancer to evolve more quickly than previously thought.
Lead author Fernando Lopez-Diaz, Salk staff scientist, said that the team aimed to uncover the diversification "switch" by which cancer cells replicated but vary slightly from one another and that turning off this cellular process would strip cancer's ability to survive drug treatment.
Like a colony of bacteria or species of animals, cancer cells within a tumor must evolve to survive. A dose of chemotherapy may kill hundreds of thousands of cancer cells, for example, but a single cell with a unique mutation can survive and quickly generate a new batch of drug-resistant cells, making cancer hard to combat.
By pushing the boundaries of bioinformatics, a collaboration led by Mei-Chong Wendy Lee and Nader Pourmand at the University of California, Santa Cruz charted more than 80,000 pieces of RNA per new cancer cell-typically, single-cell studies by other approaches looked at hundreds or so RNA pieces to distinguish fairly different cells from one another.
This unusually thorough list helped the researchers tease out subtle differences between generations of same cancer cells treated with chemotherapy and chart how the cancer cell community increased diversity among its members through RNA.
The study was published in PNAS.