Cancer is a loaded word for many biologists—it is made up of thousands of different diseases when you realize how many different paths can be taken in order for cells to lead to cancer. There are so many biologists investigating cancer, and sometimes there are discoveries that shake up our understanding. These shake-ups are key to making the big steps towards a cure that patients, survivors, and victims all hope for.
Cancer progression involves growth of a tumor as well as metastatic spread of cancerous cells to other tissues. Tumor growth requires the development of a blood supply for the tumor, and it was previously known that outside blood vessels get induced to sprout new vessels at the site of the tumor. A recent set of papers in Nature describe the ability of tumor stem cells in glioblastoma cancer to induce production of endothelial cells used in vessel formation. Images above show endothelial glioblastoma cells forming tubular vascular networks, a key step towards vessel formation, in a three-dimensional culture. DAPI shows nuclei of cells (blue), CD105 indicates dividing angiogenic endothelial cells (green), and DiI-AcLDL labels vascular endothelial cells (red). Image on right shows phase contrast of the tubular network.
Adapted by permission from Macmillan Publishers Ltd, copyright 2010.
Ricci-Vitiani, L., Pallini, R., Biffoni, M., Todaro, M., Invernici, G., Cenci, T., Maira, G., Parati, E., Stassi, G., Larocca, L., & De Maria, R. (2010). Tumour vascularization via endothelial differentiation of glioblastoma stem-like cells Nature, 468 (7325), 824-828 DOI: 10.1038/nature09557
Fantastic News and Views paper on these results:
Bautch, V. (2010). Cancer: Tumour stem cells switch sides Nature, 468 (7325), 770-771 DOI: 10.1038/468770a