One hope for beating cancer is that it tends to be predictable. In breast and liver cancers, cells seek out nurturing surroundings – places where nutrients are plentiful and neighbouring cells provide support and shelter. These tumour microenvironments can now be targeted with drugs. Unfortunately, T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, a cancer of the bone marrow, behaves differently. In this 3D picture of mouse bone marrow, blue, green cells surround purple blood vessels, creating different microenvironments. Surprisingly though, the cancer cells (yellow) aren’t restricted to any one area, and spread almost randomly through the tissue. This may explain why certain drugs don’t work when treating bone marrow cancers. Instead of finding hiding places inside the bone marrow, leukaemia cells may thrive by moving around and new therapies will focus on slowing them down.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.