Deadly cancers show early, detectable differences from benign tumors

May 14, 2018, Duke University Medical Center
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Do metastatic cancer tumors "break bad" or are they "born bad"?

This question is an essential mystery in early detection and treatment. Lacking a clear answer, patients are given the same aggressive therapies when small, abnormal clusters of are discovered early, even though they might well be harmless.

In a study publishing the week of May 14 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a research team co-led by scientists at Duke and the University of Southern California has found that in the colorectal tumors they examined, invasive cancers are born to be bad, and this tendency can potentially be identified at early diagnosis.

"We found evidence that benign and start differently, and that cell movement—an important feature of malignancy—manifests itself very early on during tumor growth," said lead author Marc D. Ryser, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow in Duke's departments of Surgery and Mathematics.

"By testing screen-detected, small tumors for early cell movement as a sign of malignancy, it might be possible to identify which patients are likely to benefit from aggressive treatment," Ryser said.

Ryser and colleagues built on recent research showing that in a subset of human cancers, many key traits of the final tumor are already imprinted in the genome of the founding cell. As such, they reasoned, would start out with the ability to spread rather than developing that trait over time. That is, they are born to be bad.

The researchers analyzed 19 human colorectal tumors with genome sequencing technology and mathematical simulation models. They found signatures of early abnormal cell movement in the majority of the invasive samples—nine of 15. This propensity is required for tumors to spread, causing them to become deadly. Early abnormal cell was not apparent in the four the researchers studied.

"The early growth of the final largely depends on the drivers present in the founding cell," the authors wrote.

The study was small and the researchers acknowledged that verification in a larger sample is required, but the finding is a significant step toward establishing a test to distinguish between deadly and harmless growths.

"Thanks to improved screening technologies, we diagnose more and more small tumors," said senior author Darryl Shibata, M.D., professor in the Department of Pathology at Keck School of Medicine of USC. "Because treating a patient aggressively can cause them harm and side-effects, it is important to understand which of the small screen-detected tumors are relatively benign and slowly growing, and which ones are born to be bad."

Explore further: Researchers trace origins of colorectal cancer tumor cells

More information: Marc D. Ryser el al., "Spatial mutation patterns as markers of early colorectal tumor cell mobility," PNAS (2018). www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1716552115

Related Stories

Researchers trace origins of colorectal cancer tumor cells

February 9, 2015
For the first time, Keck Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) cancer researchers have traced the origins of colorectal cancer cells, finding important clues to why tumor cells become "good" or "bad," with ...

Research shows possible new target for immunotherapy for solid tumors

April 24, 2018
Research from the University of Cincinnati (UC) reveals a potential new target to help T cells (white blood cells) infiltrate certain solid tumors.

Metabolic profiling may determine aggressiveness, prognosis of prostate cancer

March 26, 2018
A new approach to analyzing prostate gland tissue may help address a major challenge in treating prostate cancer - determining which tumors are unlikely to progress and which could be life threatening and require treatment. ...

Researchers discover tumor cells stiffen before becoming invasive

May 16, 2017
A study recently published in Nature Communications shows that breast cancer cells undergo a stiffening state prior to becoming malignant. The discovery, made by a research team led by Florence Janody, from Instituto Gulbenkian ...

Researchers demonstrate mathematical modeling limits aggressive tumor cell growth

May 24, 2017
Cancers can be viewed as complex dynamic systems because they have many interacting parts that can change over time and space. Perhaps the most well-known complex dynamic system is the weather and, similar to weather forecasting, ...

Single-cell analysis reveals subtypes of colorectal tumors

March 20, 2017
Combining single-cell genomics and computational techniques, a research team including Paul Robson, Ph.D., director of single-cell biology at The Jackson Laboratory (JAX), has defined cell-type composition of cancerous cells ...

Recommended for you

Daily low-dose aspirin may be weapon against ovarian cancer

July 20, 2018
(HealthDay)— One low-dose aspirin a day could help women avoid ovarian cancer or boost their survival should it develop, two new studies suggest.

Discovery of kidney cancer driver could lead to new treatment strategy

July 19, 2018
University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center scientists have uncovered a potential therapeutic target for kidney cancers that have a common genetic change. Scientists have known this genetic change ...

High fruit and vegetable consumption may reduce risk of breast cancer, especially aggressive tumors

July 19, 2018
Women who eat a high amount of fruits and vegetables each day may have a lower risk of breast cancer, especially of aggressive tumors, than those who eat fewer fruits and vegetables, according to a new study led by researchers ...

Sunscreen reduces melanoma risk by 40 per cent in young people

July 19, 2018
A world-first study led by University of Sydney has found that Australians aged 18-40 years who were regular users of sunscreen in childhood reduced their risk of developing melanoma by 40 percent, compared to those who rarely ...

Analysis of prostate tumors reveals clues to cancer's aggressiveness

July 19, 2018
Using genetic sequencing, scientists have revealed the complete DNA makeup of more than 100 aggressive prostate tumors, pinpointing important genetic errors these deadly tumors have in common. The study lays the foundation ...

Complementary medicine for cancer can decrease survival

July 19, 2018
People who received complementary therapy for curable cancers were more likely to refuse at least one component of their conventional cancer treatment, and were more likely to die as a result, according to researchers from ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.