Tumor cells associated with pancreatic cancer often behave like communities by working with each other to increase tumor spread and growth to different organs. Groups of these cancer cells are better than single cancer cells in driving tumor spread, according to new research from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) published online in Cancer Discovery on July 24, 2015. The article is titled “Pancreatic Cancer Metastases Harbor Evidence of Polyclonality.” Ben Stanger, M.D., Ph.D., a Professor in the Division of Gastroenterology at Perelman, and first author Ravi Maddipati, M.D., an Instructor in the Division of Gastroenterology, say that these results may prove useful in designing better targeted therapies to stop tumor progression and to provide an improved non-invasive method for detecting early disease states in this highly lethal cancer. Dr. Stanger is also a Professor in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology and the Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute. Cancer genome studies have shown that within most tumors there exist many different types of cells, which often harbor unique genetic alterations that lead to differences in their physiological properties. Previous studies using tumor cells lines suggested that these different tumor cell types may interact with each other to produce a more aggressive type of cancer. However, the mechanisms by which tumor cells interact to enhance the spread of cancer remained unclear. From other earlier studies, the Penn team also knew that cells from a primary tumor do better replicating and surviving in a group than they do if they are grown on their own. From this, the researchers asked if the spread of cancer is primarily derived from one cell or a cell cluster derived from the interactions between and among different cancer cell types. Dr.
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