A Loughborough University PhD student has provided new insight into how breast cancer cells interact with cells in our body by using a novel 3D model.
Biochemist Mj Brown, of the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, has investigated how human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) and breast cancer cells interact and affect each other’s invasiveness – a concept that has previously left scientists puzzled.
hMSCs are found in bone marrow and are important for regenerating and repairing damaged areas in the body as they can differentiate into a variety of cell types, including those that make bone, cartilage, muscle and fat.
Cancer researchers have turned their focus to hMSCs as they naturally travel to tumours when they appear in the body and interact with cancer cells.
They are particularly keen to understand if hMSCs can interact with cells to prevent ‘secondary breast cancer’ as this type of cancer is incurable.
Secondary breast cancer occurs when cancer cells from a primary tumour in the breast spread to nearby tissues such as the lungs, bones and liver via the blood or lymphatic system – a process known as ‘metastasis’.
Though hMSCs are naturally drawn to these ‘invasive’ cancer cells, how the cells interact and affect each other is unclear and previous research projects are divided in their results, with some finding hMSCs promote metastasis and others concluding they reduce it.