Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Detrimental Diversity

Analysis of the heterogeneity of tumours and how it's associated with prognosis

15 October 2022

Detrimental Diversity

Because it’s possible for just one mutant cell, replicating out of control, to give rise to a tumour, one might think tumours are comprised of essentially identical cells. But, that’s not the case. Tumours, generally speaking, contain a mix of cells that arise and develop as the tumour grows. This breast tumour (pictured), for example, shows a variety of cells marked by different colours. And, recent studies suggest, the more cellular diversity a tumour displays, the more deadly it will be. Women whose stage III breast cancer specimens exhibited highly heterogeneous cells – especially cells transitioning from an epithelial to mesenchymal type, which is associated with metastasis – had reduced survival times compared with women whose tumours were more uniform. While these findings may not lead directly to new treatment options for cancer sufferers, they could lead to a new prognostic screen that then guides treatment decisions.

Written by Ruth Williams

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