The spread of cancer from one part of the body to another is both hard to control and greatly contributes to a patient’s risk of death. Understanding how and why cancer cells spread is key to lowering one’s risk and providing potentially lifesaving help for cancer patients.
New research out of Japan taps into technology to explore this process. According to BBC News, a team of scientists devised a method for observing cancer cells in mice as they grow and evolve, giving researchers a firsthand look at that process.
In the study, the lab animals were injected with cancer cells, targeted toward their lungs, intestines, and livers, which were enhanced to light up on imaging. The cancer was left to grow before scientists administered a chemical that made the mice’s internal organs nearly transparent. The materials used caused the healthy tissue to reflect a shade of green and the cancerous cells to appear red, allowing researchers to see very clearly clusters of cells, patterns, and shapes, which were previously harder to identify without such imaging technology.
With the new breakthrough, researchers can not only better identify where cancerous cells are located, but they can also gain integral insight into how the disease spreads from one area to another. That knowledge can inform new therapies that offer needed help for cancer patients to avoid further spread or recurrence of cancer.
The method is still in its early stages and has so far only been tested in mice, but researchers envision human trials as the next phase of the project.
“I hope this tissue-clearing and 3D imaging of human samples will make diagnosis easier, more objective and accurate in near future,” Dr. Hiroki Ueda told the BBC.
This research could provide help to cancer patients and prevent the disease in others.