Published: 03-02-2016 17:04 | Updated: 03-02-2016 17:04

Minority of cancer cells affect the growth and metastasis of tumours

New research shows that a small minority of cancer cells in neuroendocrine tumours of the pancreas contribute to the overall growth and metastasis of the tumour. This discovery was made by a research group at Lund University, in collaboration with researchers at Karolinska Institutet.

The findings are of fundamental biological importance for the understanding of the different functions of cancer cells, and are now published in the scientific journal PNAS.

Cancer emerges when mutations and other genetic alterations shut down the control system for growth that can normally be found in our cells. All cancer cells in a tumour were previously believed to have the same potential to grow and metastasise, but recent studies show that tumours are comprised of several types of cancer cells with different genetic alterations.

“The fact that there are so many different types of cells within a single tumour could explain why only some cancer cells are able to metastasise, and why some patients experience recurrence of their tumorous disease, despite having undergone extensive treatment”, explains Professor Kristian Pietras at the Department of Laboratory Medicine at Lund University, also affiliated to Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics.

Neuroendocrine tumours, NET, is a generic name for a type of hormone-producing tumour. In their study, the research group showed that in neuroendocrine tumours of the pancreas, a small minority of tumour cells significantly contributed to the overall growth of the tumour.

Kristian Pietras is the Göran and Birgitta Grosskopf Professor at Lund University. The current study is supported by a Consolidator Grant from the European Research Council, the Swedish Research Council, the Swedish Cancer Society, the STARGET consortium (a Swedish Research Council Linnaeus network), BioCARE, and Lund University.


Functional malignant cell heterogeneity in pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors revealed by targeting of PDGF-DD
Eliane Cortez, Hanna Gladh, Sebastian Braun, Matteo Bocci, Eugenia Cordero, Niklas K. Björkström, Hideki Miyazaki, Iacovos P. Michael, Ulf Eriksson, Erika Folestad, and Kristian Pietras
PNAS, published online before print February 1, 2016, doi:10.1073/pnas.1509384113