Stem cells, with the potential to become almost any cell type, can regenerate organs. Their fate is carefully orchestrated by transcription factors, cell ‘managers’ which turn on production of whole groups of proteins simultaneously. Similarly, cancer stem cells can regenerate the cancer and often hijack and misuse the same factors. Slug and Sox9 are two of these ‘managers’ in breast stem cells. These powerful molecules must be kept in check as they can help cancers grow. Researchers found that a short burst of Slug and Sox9 together in breast cancer cells in mice causes new cancers to grow easily in the mouse lung (lower panels). Cancer cells are dyed bright orange (left) and are also seen as the dark pink mass in the tissue on the right. This is dangerous cooperation: neither Sox9 alone (upper panels) nor Slug alone has this effect.
Written by Claire Worrall
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