Cancers often come back following successful treatment, a process at least partially due to the fact that dormant cells, which are particularly resistant to common therapies like chemo, remain in the body. They’re elusive and therefore difficult to study, so progress on targeting such cells has been limited.
Now scientists at University of Minnesota-Twin Cities have developed a way to pick out dormant cancer cells from other cancer cells and to keep them in their quiescent state in order to study them.
The technique consists of placing cancer cells within a silica-poly(ethylene glycol) material that prevents the cells from moving about and proliferating. This stresses the cells in a unique way, but gives them a chance to survive since the silica-poly(ethylene glycol) is made to be porous so nutrients are fed to the cells.
After a while, typical cancer cells died off, while cells that are able to become dormant stayed alive. Extracting live cells three weeks after they were encapsulated produced a source of dormant-only cells. When these cells were then placed in a medium suitable for reproduction, they did indeed grow and proliferate within days.
Study in journal Technology: Immobilization platform to induce quiescence in dormancy-capable cancer cells…