Cancer can return after seemingly successful treatment, and researchers have isolated a small population of dormant cancer cells that could cause this in a type of leukaemia.
Irmela Jeremias at the Helmholtz Center Munich in Germany and her colleagues isolated tumour cells from people with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) and monitored their growth in mice. The authors pinpointed a small fraction of ALL cells that rarely divided, survived chemotherapy treatment and later gave rise to new tumours. The cells' gene-expression profiles were similar to those of cancer cells that had resisted previous treatments in mice and humans. When the cells were removed from the bone marrow and cultured in a lab dish, they became sensitive to chemotherapy drugs.
Blocking the interactions between these cells and their protective niche could offer a way to eradicate the cells and prevent cancer relapse.
Cancer Cell http://doi.org/bvbn (2016)