New Study Reveals That Cancer Cells Eat Themselves to Survive

By: | July 4th, 2021

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Researchers recently discovered a way cancer cells heal themselves to repair the damage. They found that cancer cells eat themselves to survive when they are damaged.

Science behind:

In regular cells and most cancers cells, the cell membrane protects a cell. Any injury to the membrane will allow the entry and exit of some materials in and out of the cell. As there is fluid inside of cells, and if a gap is there in the membrane, the cell merely floats out and dies.

So, for the cell to survive, injury to the cell membrane has to be repaired rapidly. Cancer cells pull the intact cell membrane in over the damaged area and seal the hole. This process is known as macropinocytosis.

After that, the damaged part of the cell membrane is separated into small spheres. Then these are transported to the cells’ ‘stomach’ (the lysosomes). Finally, they are broken down and digested by lysosomes.

Jesper Nylandsted, who has headed the new research, said, “Our research provides very basic knowledge about how cancer cells survive. In our experiments, we have also shown that cancer cells die if the process is inhibited, and this points towards macropinocytosis as a target for future treatment. It is a long-term perspective, but it is interesting,” 

“We continue to work and investigate how cancer cells protect their membranes. In connection with macropinocytosis, in particular, it is also interesting to see what happens after the membrane is closed. We believe that the first patching is a bit rough and that a more thorough repair of the membrane is needed afterward. It can be another weak point in the cancer cells, and is something we want to examine closer,” said postdoc Stine Lauritzen Sønder.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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