What many [breast cancer] survivors worry about…is that their breast cancer may come back. It has puzzled scientists and health care providers that cancer can suddenly reappear, often with a vengeance, months or years after treatment is over.
Now, researchers at the Texas A&M College of Medicine have found that these dormant tumor cells might have become latent because they cannibalized — basically ate — the body’s own stem cells.
Bartosh and the team realized that if breast cancer cells in the body behave the same way, it might explain cancer recurrence.
The cancer cells that have cannibalized MSCs are highly resistant to chemotherapy and nutrient deprivation that fairly effectively kills other cancerous cells. Because there are only a few of them, the surviving cells are not detected with existing scanning methods.
The hope is that now a possible mechanism for recurrence has been explained, a treatment could be found that would keep those cannibalistic cells dormant, and doing no harm, for the rest of the person’s life.
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