Scientists from the Flemish Institute of Biotechnology, VIB, and the University of Leuven (KU Leuven) have succeeded in identifying differences between cells in the same tumor, noting that some of them can take on a more aggressive form.
The scientists based their findings on the study of thousands of skin cancer cells, the VIB and KU Leuven reported on Monday.
All cancer cells are not identical. Even within the same tumor, some cells can be more aggressive than others. To highlight these differences in a very detailed manner, the VIB-KU Leuven team used the so-called single cell technology, with which thousands of individual cells can be analysed.
The team, led by Professor Stein Aerts of the Centre for Brain Research, applied the results obtained to melanoma, one of the most heterogenous forms of cancer. They mapped the genetic regulation that makes certain skin-cancer cells more invasive.
“Melanoma cells can go easily from a state in which they develop to one in which they are invasive and spread more easily, Jasper Wouters, a postdoctoral researcher within the team, explained.
To study this diversity, the scientists analysed the activity of close to 40,000 individual melanoma cells from 10 different patients under the project, which received financial support from Belgium’s cancer foundation.
With the knowledge they have now acquired, the researchers wish to understand the biological mechanisms that cause dynamic changes in cancerous cells. Their findings could eventually lead to better treatments for various forms of cancer.