According to a recent report presented at the American Society for Cell Biology, breast cancer can be prevented by a gentle squeeze, as applying a little pressure on malignant cells may cause the cells to grow in a more organised, normal fashion.
The research was conducted at the University of California in Berkeley in the US to prove that putting pressure on young malignant cells could alter the cells’ growth patterns, says laboratory head Prof Daniel Fletcher.
To replicate the natural growing environment for these cells, flexible silicone housings were injected with malignant epithelial cells grown in a gel, explains Gautham Venugopalan, a leading member of the research team.
Applying pressure to the malignant cells in their early growth stages crushed the cells – putting “the cells back on the right track” says Prof Fletcher – but it did not eliminate them completely. The cells started growing again, but this time followed a more normal pattern.
When the breast tissue structure formed, the cell growth ceased, without any pressure being applied. In contrast, the cells that were not subject to physical pressure grew uncontrollably. According to Venugopalan the malignant cells that takes on this abnormal growth pattern, and usually lead to cancer, have not “completely forgotten how to be healthy, they just need the right cues to guide them back to a healthy growth pattern”.
How does this affect treatment?
The research only provides an avenue worth exploring for the future development of treatment, and is not a treatment in itself. Prof Fletcher says “this does give us new clues to track down the molecules and structures that could eventually be targeted for therapies”. For instance, an interesting finding of the study was that, when adding a treatment drug that prevents the cells from adhering to one another, the controlled malignant cells spun out of control again, which could be indicative that changes need to be made to prevention drugs.
Every new breakthrough, like this one, could lead to the development of more effective treatment for the prevention of cancer.