What does ecology, animal migrations and the diaspora of people have to do with cancer?
Quite a lot, it seems.
New research by Bruce Robertson, an ecologist at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York and Kenneth Pienta, an oncologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., has shown some similarities between the movement of animals in their environments and the metastasis of cancer cells.
We quote from the article which you can read here:
“Just as remnants of people’s homelands remain embedded in their identity long after a move, cancer cells never fully melt into their new surroundings. For example, in breast cancer, cells from an initial tumor will carry the genetic fingerprint of the original locale after they migrate to bone tissue. Identifying these cells in their new homes might help oncologists target them specifically with toxic drugs while leaving normal cells unscathed.
“Secondly, in a diaspora, people often move to places previously scoped out by their compatriots so that neighborhoods don’t feel entirely foreign. Cancer cells similarly appear to beckon to other cancer cells, by secreting chemicals like cytokines and growth factors that mobilize and recruit cancer cells to future sites of metastasis, Pienta writes. These homing signals might be used to lure cancer to slaughterhouses.”
Slaughterhouses sound like good places for cancer cells!