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Do Cancer Cells Communicate?

Cancer cells apparently "communicate" and work together to defend themselves from cancer treatments like chemotherapy, and research published in the journal Trends in Microbiology suggest disrupting that communication could lead to successful treatments.

Cancers, like Mesothelioma prove difficult to treat and stop because they are frequently aggressive and resistant to chemotherapy.

Using experience gained from studies of bacteria and their behavior, researchers from Rice University, Johns Hopkins University and Tel Aviv University believe that we can no longer think of cancer as a "random collection of cells running amok."

They looked at research on how bacteria cells in colonies work together to develop immunities to drugs, and used that as a model to examine the behavior of cancer cells.

Bacteria apparently can communicate, as they can become dormant when they are subjected to antibiotics and then return to activity after the "threat" of the antibiotics has passed.

Research has shown cancer cells appear to be able to cooperate to "enslave normal cells, create metastases, resist drugs and decoy the body's immune system."

These researchers see many parallels between the behavior of bacteria and cancer cells and suggest that this perspective could lead to valuable ways of dealing with issues of "metastasis, relapse and multiple drug resistance."

They hope that potentially this may lead our developing the ability to stimulate cancer cells to be responsive to chemotherapy and at some point enable doctors to signal cancer cells to turn on themselves and destroy other cancer cells.

Source: Rice University News & Media, Jade Boyd, "Experts propose 'cyber war' on cancer," September 4, 2012.

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