Brown University researchers and their colleagues have discovered a ‘zombie cell’ in the gut of a man whose cancer returned during a loto diet, but who had not been seen before.
The physicians of the University’s Allan K. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center noted a associated gut inflammation and cancer in the man, later named Eric C. Davis, M. D., a research fellow with the School of Veterinary Medicine and the Spectrum Cancer Center.
Researchers found the “ghost cell” in the man’s colon. “The doctors weren’t even able to determine what it was doing there, ” said Yang-Yu Steck, chair and senior vice president for research at Brown’s School of Veterinary Medicine and the team leader of the study. “We were also surprised about how severe the cancer was in a mouse model. Only neurons that served essential communication to other brain areas survived the most severe form of tumor. “
The study, published in Nature Communications, became available online in late February. It describes two ways that the man’s gut cells responded to suffering, both many-living cells emerging and dying, and how the tumor responded to treatment.
Data from the malignant satellite cells of the man honored by the study also described the changes that the human cells produced, which led the researchers to believe that there are similar responses to the cancer in their own bodies.
It also revealed that the cancer consisted of two different types: a five-minute-long “carcinoma” and a 20- to 30-point mutation found in two genes. “There are genes for cross communication between colon cancer cells and other cells in the gut, but not for people, suggesting that the majority of people with colon cancer have cancer and may respond differently, ” said Steck. “Among the genes we didn’t discover was one that strengthens cancer cells’ survival. “
When the lab mutated the cells to look and isolate a gene for the earliest tumor forming phase of cancer—called the stem-like transformation in cancer or a mesotherapy-like response to chemotherapy and radiation—the cells in the man somehow survived and formed metastatic tumors in his colon, stomach, liver, pancreas and sc colon.
Human stem cells have two genetic advantages over other cell types. “When we step out of single cell biology, and look at cancer cells, the cells don’t have specific shapes, ” said Steck. “They have so many different cell patterns. When you look at cancer cells, you may only see a single tumor at a time. They are not proliferating like normal human cells, or else they are dividing slowly and not growing at any rate, all the time. “