Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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International Childhood Cancer Day Blast Off
15 February 2014

Blast Off

Cells are bit like conservative grandparents – they know what they like and really aren't too keen on trying new things. That’s why making them grow happily outside of the body in a strange environment is no easy feat. The cells responsible for neuroblastoma (NB) – a common childhood cancer that originates in the nervous system – are particularly picky. While NB cells that have migrated to other parts of the body or metastasised are happy to grow in a nourishing medium in the lab, those that have stayed in the nervous system refuse to develop typically. However, by tinkering with the make-up of the medium, scientists coaxed these stubborn NB cells into forming a characteristic ball-shaped tumour and into sending out long exploratory branches (pictured). This opens up the possibility of personalised medicine, as drugs could be tested on tumours grown from individual patients' cells before being used to treat them.

Written by Jan Piotrowski

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