Imaging Collaboration Sheds New Light on Cancer Growth


Source: Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research

Summary: Researchers have uncovered new insights into how the normal controls on cell growth are lost in cancer cells, leading to rapid tumour expansion.


Cell replication is a normal process that generates additional cells, enabling the body to grow, repair tissues and generate germ-fighting immune cells. In order to replicate, a cell first copies its genetic material, DNA, and then physically splits in half to form two new ‘daughter’ cells. This process, called the cell cycle, is normally tightly controlled to prevent excessive growth, which can lead to cancer. Researchers from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research have uncovered new insights into how the normal controls on cell growth are lost in cancer cells, leading to rapid tumour expansion. In this study, researchers uncovered precisely how the cell cycle is derailed in cancer cells. The findings could help researchers predict how cancer cells respond to chemotherapy and improve our understanding of how cancer evolves. The study findings were published in the journal Cell Cycle.

Cell cycle

(L-R) Dr Kelly Rogers, Dr Kim Pham and Professor Phil Hodgkin have uncovered new insights into cancer growth. Credit: Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research

Several years ago, the team challenged this theory in healthy immune cells, showing that both phases of the cell cycle contribute to changes in replication time. Now, they have upended the theory in cancer cells too. The discovery was made in collaboration with the Centre for Dynamic Imaging, a laboratory within the Institute that offers researchers access to advanced imaging technologies. For this study, the team tagged cancer cells with a fluorescent sensor that changes colour as cells progress through the cell cycle. They then performed single-cell imaging to track each phase of the cell cycle as they underwent replication. The researchers then worked with bioimage analyst Dr. Whitehead to analyse and interpret their data and develop a new mathematical model for predicting when cells replicate.

Prof. Phil Hodgkin said the research could impact on our understanding of cancer. “Accurate mathematical models of how cancer cells replicate help us predict how cancers respond to chemotherapy treatment, and how they evolve to become drug resistant.”


More Information: K. Pham et al, “Converse Smith-Martin cell cycle kinetics by transformed B lymphocytes”, Cell Cycle(2018). DOI: 10.1080/15384101.2018.1511511


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