Metastasis and a hybrid cell

Metastasis, the spread of cancer throughout the body, may be caused by a hybrid cell that takes on the most dangerous features of two different cell types, according to a review by Yale scientists in the May issue of Nature Reviews Cancer.

According to dermatology researchers John M. Pawelek, Ph.D., and Ashok K. Chakraborty, Ph.D., the natural hybrids take on both the white cell’s migratory ability and the cancer cell’s tendency to divide uncontrollably. The hybrid can travel to other organs and seed new cancer sites.

“This is a unifying explanation for metastasis,” said Pawelek. “We expect this to open new areas for therapy based on the fusion process itself.” So far, one case of fusion in humans and many cases in mice have been reported. Pawelek said more research is needed to be certain that fusion accounts for metastasis in humans.

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