First study on physical properties of giant cancer cells may inform new treatments
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IMAGE: Polyploidal “giant ” cancer cells are seen in the middle surrounded by other types of smaller cancer cells. The cells’ nuclei are dyed blue. Actin, the cable-like structures that enable cells… view more 

Credit: Michelle Dawson / Brown University

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Polyploidal cancer cells–cells that have more than two copies of each chromosome–are much larger than most other cancer cells, are resistant to chemotherapy and radiation treatments and are associated with disease relapse. A new study by Brown University researchers is the first to reveal key physical properties of these “giant” cancer cells.

The research, published Aug. 9 in Scientific Reports, shows that the giant cells are stiffer and have the ability to move further than other cancer cells, which could help explain why they’re associated with more serious disease.

“I think these polyploidal giant cancer cells are the missing link for why tumors become so complex and heterogeneous so quickly,” said Michelle Dawson, an assistant professor of molecular pharmacology, physiology and biotechnology at Brown and the study’s corresponding author. “By understanding the physical properties of this weird population of cells we might identify a new way to eliminate them. Patients will benefit from that.”

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