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Stress on Cells Can Turn Them Cancerous

Insight into mechanism could help improve treatment, researcher says

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 13, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- New research in fruit flies offers insight into how cells turn cancerous.

At issue is how mutations occur in single cells and create tumors. In a study published online Jan. 13 in Nature, researchers report that cancer-causing mutations can work together even when they're in different cells.

"The bad news is that it is much easier for a tissue to accumulate mutations in different cells than in the same cell," Tian Xu, a researcher with the Yale Cancer Center and the Fudan-Yale Center for Biomedical Research at Fudan University in China, said in a Yale news release.

The researchers looked at genes in fruit flies, including a gene linked to about a third of cancers in humans. They discovered that mutations don't need to be in the same cell to cause tumors and that environmental stresses, including wounds, can cause cancer to develop.

"A lot of different conditions can trigger stress signaling: physical stress, emotional stress, infections, inflammation -- all these things," Xu said.

In the big picture, Xu said, the research could help improve cancer treatment: "Better understanding of the underlying mechanism causing cancer always offers new tools to battle the disease."

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on understanding cancer.

SOURCE: Yale University, news release, Jan. 13, 2010
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