Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


CSI-Style DNA Fingerprinting Tracks Down Cause of Cancer Spread: Discovery of Hybrid Cells in Human Melanoma

The University of Colorado Cancer Center along with Yale University and the Denver Crime Lab report in the journal PLoS ONE the first proof of cancer’s ability to fuse with blood cells in a way that gives cancer the ability to travel, allowing previously stationary cancer cells to enter the bloodstream and seed sites of metastasis around the body.

The work used DNA fingerprinting of a bone marrow transplant patient with cancer, along with DNA fingerprinting of the patient’s bone marrow donor, to show that subsequent metastatic cancer cells in the patient’s body carried parts of both genomes, fused together into a hybrid cancer cell.

Metastasis is responsible for the overwhelming majority of cancer deaths and there are many theories as to how it occurs, but the problem remains yet unsolved. John Pawelek, PhD, at Yale has pointed out that the combination of a cancer cell with a blood cell could explain how a cancer cell acquires the ability to move through the body.

The problem is there has been no way to prove this through genetic analyses of the tumor cells – they are too similar to the patient’s non-tumor cells and so you can’t tell if the mutations that allow a cancer cell to travel arose in the cell itself or through fusion with another source.

“One night on a bus ride returning from a conference, John pointed out that, in a patient with a bone marrow transplant, the blood cells come from someone else – one person with two genomes,” says Richard Spritz, MD, investigator at the CU Cancer Center and professor of pediatrics at the CU School of Medicine. “He had received a pathology specimen of a melanoma tumor that had metastasized to the brain of a patient who had previously received a bone marrow transplant from his brother, and he asked me whether, as a collaboration, we could distinguish between the donor and patient genomes in a cancer cell? I knew that one of the best ways to accomplish this was by DNA fingerprinting.”

And so began a wide-reaching collaboration to include, among others, Greggory LaBerge, PhD, who had earned his doctorate in the Spritz lab and was now Director of the Denver Police Department Forensics and Evidence Division.

“This is one of the first instances I know of in which forensic technology has been used to support basic science,” Spritz says. “John isolated metastatic cancer cells using technology available at the CU Cancer Center, and Greg did DNA fingerprinting. Between Yale, CU, and the Denver Crime Lab, this is really a remarkable collaboration.” After much dedicated work to this single tumor, they found that the entire tumor was populated by cancer cell hybrids with genomes containing both donor and patient DNA.

“Is fusion the mechanism that allows all cancer cells to travel? It’s too early to tell, but research toward answering this question is ongoing,” Spritz says. He points out that fusion leading to metastasis is likely to be at least somewhat common, as they found this mechanism in the first case they tested. “Of course it could be a fluke,” he says. “But I don’t think so.”

“The finding could have major implications for the treatment of metastatic cancers of many kinds. It really focuses your thinking – if traveling tumor cells essentially think they are blood cells, that means we might be able to focus approaches to attack them,” Spritz says.

Garth Sundem | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Make way for the mini flying machines
21.03.2018 | American Chemical Society

nachricht New 4-D printer could reshape the world we live in
21.03.2018 | American Chemical Society

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

TRAPPIST-1 planets provide clues to the nature of habitable worlds

21.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

The search for dark matter widens

21.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Natural enemies reduce pesticide use

21.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>