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Cancer Bubbles

May 20, 2008

Tumore cells can spread malignancy through tiny bubbles containing cancer-causing proteins.


Peer pressure from cancer cells. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Like a kid who’s a bad influence on his peers, a cancer cell can goad otherwise peaceful cells into malignant behavior. A team of Canadian scientists has discovered one way they do it: by actually transmitting mutant proteins in tiny bubbles called microvesicles. McGill University oncologist Janusz Rak showed that the mutant proteins do more than just go for a ride.

JANUSZ RAK (McGill University):
When they attach themselves to these other cells, they are fully functional, so they can trigger certain malignancy-like changes in cells to which they have migrated.

While these changes may fall short of turning the healthy cells into a full-blown cancer cells, they can aggravate the disease and worsen the prognosis. And Rak says the mutant proteins not only corrupt neighboring cells, they also stimulate the original cancer cell to make even more toxic bubbles. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.