Researchers have uncovered new insights into how the normal controls on cell growth are lost in cancer cells, leading to rapid tumor expansion.
Walter and Eliza Hall Institute researchers have uncovered new insights into how the normal controls on cell growth are lost in cancer cells, leading to rapid tumour expansion.
The findings could help researchers predict how cancer cells respond to chemotherapy and improve our understanding of how cancer evolves.
Published in the journal Cell Cycle, the research was led by Dr Kim Pham and Professor Phil Hodgkin and performed in collaboration with Dr Kelly Rogers and Dr Lachlan Whitehead at the Institute’s Centre for Dynamic Imaging.
Debunking cell cycle dogma
Cell replication is a normal process that generates additional cells, enabling the body to grow, repair tissues and generate germ-fighting immune cells.
In order to replicate, a cell first copies its genetic material, DNA, and then physically splits in half to form two new ‘daughter’ cells. This process, called the cell cycle, is normally tightly controlled to prevent excessive growth, which can lead to cancer.
In this study, researchers uncovered precisely how the cell cycle is derailed in cancer cells.
“We found that compared with healthy immune cells, cancer cells had dramatic changes in their cell cycle,” Dr Pham said. “The first phase of the cell cycle, called G1, is normally tightly controlled to ensure replication occurs safely. This step is drastically shortened in cancer cells, allowing them to race through the cell cycle at a risky pace.”
Since 1973, scientists have assumed that the second phase of the cell cycle, when DNA is copied and the cell splits in half, takes a fixed amount of time, while the first phase takes a variable amount of time.
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