A method for fooling breast cancer cells into fat cells has been discovered by researchers from the University of Basel. The team were able to transform EMT-derived breast cancer cells into fat cells in a mouse model of the disease – preventing the formation of metastases. The proof-of-concept study was published in the journal Cancer Cell.
Malignant cells can rapidly respond and adapt to changing microenvironmental conditions, by reactivating a cellular process called epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), enabling them to alter their molecular properties and transdifferentiate into a different type of cell (cellular plasticity).
Senior author of the study Gerhard Christofori, professor of biochemistry at the University of Basel, commented in a recent press release: “The breast cancer cells that underwent an EMT not only differentiated into fat cells, but also completely stopped proliferating.”
“As far as we can tell from long-term culture experiments, the cancer cells-turned-fat cells remain fat cells and do not revert back to breast cancer cells,” he explained.