Cancer cells cheat death by reversing a process which causes normal cells to commit suicide at the end of their natural life, scientists have shown.
They showed cancer cells were able to recover even after exposure to a chemical cocktail which triggers suicide in normal cells. … Programmed cell suicide – or apoptosis – plays a key role in keeping the body healthy, by ridding it of damaged or defective cells.
The researchers treated human cervical, skin, liver and breast cancer cells each with three different chemicals – jasplakinolide, staurosporine and ethanol – which triggers apoptosis in normal cells.
They wanted to see if cancer cells could survive once they have passed the point of no return for normal cell death.
The researchers found the cancer cells recovered once the chemical cocktail had been removed – even after the cells had passed normal critical checkpoints.
…cancer cells regained their shape, function and continued to divide.
They only lost the ability to recover once the nucleus at the very heart of the cell containing key genetic material had started to disintegrate – an event right at the end of the normal cell suicide process.
Researcher Professor Ming-Chiu Fung said the study suggested that cancer cells could use this ability to survive assault by chemotherapy drugs.
He said the discovery could potentially help the development of new, more effective anti-cancer drugs.
Cancer cells may hold the key to human immortality. We might get there gradually. Imagine getting a transplant heart made of specially engineered cells that would never age, for example. Once we crack immortality, we will have to stop reproducing so much, or get some new planets, of course.