MPP PhD Student Botai Xuan in the Dawson Lab: Study discovers potential target for treating aggressive cancer cells

New research by a team at Brown University finds that special filaments called vimentin may be key to the spread of some aggressive, chemo-resistant cancer cells.

As researchers and medical professionals work to develop new treatments for cancer, they face a variety of challenges. One is intratumor heterogeneity — the presence of multiple kinds of cancer cells within the same tumor. Often, these “mosaic” tumors include cells, such as polyploidal giant cancer cells, that have evolved to become aggressive and resistant to chemotherapy and radiation.

In the past, polyploidal giant cancer cells (PGCCs) have been largely ignored because studies had found that they do not undergo mitosis, which is the mechanism that is typically required for cell division. However, recent studies have found that PGCCs undergo amitotic budding — cell division that does not occur through mitosis — and that their cell structure enables them to spread rapidly.

A new study, published this month by a team of Brown University scientists in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, sheds more light and identifies a potential target for treating these aggressive cancer cells.

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