Scientists have discovered a miniature gastrointestinal tract in a lung cancer tumor, according to Stat News. Duke University researchers have observed rudimentary but functional stomachs, small intestines, and duodenums growing inside a cancerous lung. The report said that cancerous cells use the same developmental mechanisms as healthy cells do to adapt and survive. Scientists are observing an example of some cells mutating into their developmental cousins, the report said. The publication showed that “During development, the lung and the esophagus all come the same endodermal progenitor cells.”
The lead author of the study, Purushothama Rao Tata said: “What we think is that these cancer cells in the lung slide into the nearest developmental neighborhood.” According to the scientists, this mechanism likely contributes to drug resistance because the tumor shared characteristics of gut cells. The research shows how cancer tumors can adapt by copying cells in the body. The finds could be helpful in identifying tumor cells and how they evolve. Therefore, better therapies and drug-resistant drugs could be developed for cancer treatment. The scientists plan to test new drug combinations in miniaturized tumor models, according to the report.
These findings demonstrate that elements of pathologic tumor plasticity mirror the normal developmental history of organs, and cancer cells acquire characteristics associated with neighboring organs. The research was inspired by how cells maintain their identity and what triggers changes in their behavior. Tata was able to reproduce his findings in animals when the NKX2-1 gene was isolated in the lung tissue of mice. The tissues that only appear in the gut began growing in their lungs and began excreting digestive enzymes.
The researchers discovered that human lung cancer cells lacked a developmental gene called NKX2-1, which helps stem cells to develop into lung cells. Deborah Caswell, a researcher at the Francis Crick Institute, is intrigued by how distinct regions within a single tumor can differentiate in unique ways. Cancer cells in the lung will mimic the characteristics of gut cells to help evade treatment. Tata and his group believe that colon cancer drugs might help in the treatment of some lung cancers. Although the research looks promising for the treatment of cancer, tumors in other regions have not been considered using a similar method. The possible adoption of this method may be applicable to the study of tumors in other regions of the body in the future. The article was published in the Development Cell journal this week.