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Study looks at movement of cancer cells

A recent study calls into question a belief scientists have held about cancer cells.

The study was recently published online in "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences," and the researchers who conducted it are from Johns Hopkins University.

The study looked at the movement characteristics of cancer cells that break from a main tumor. One belief that scientists had held regarding the movement of such cells is that the cells move in a slow, meandering and aimless fashion referred to as a random walk. This belief was based on observations of cancer cell movement in 2D environments, such as flat lab dishes. The above-mentioned study investigated whether cancers cells exhibit the random walk when moving in a 3D environment.

The study found that cancers cells generally do not move in the random walk pattern in a 3D environment, but rather move along trajectories that are fairly straight and that are faster and more efficient than trajectories under a random walk pattern would be. This finding gives rise to the somewhat alarming conclusion that cancer cells may move more rapidly in the body than was previously thought.

The study's researchers developed a mathematical model for how cancer cells move that is aimed at being consistent with the previous 2D environment findings and the new 3D environment findings.

It is hoped that the study's findings will help with the accuracy of future studies looking into how cancer cells move in the human body. Research into this topic could give us a more complete picture of how cancer works and spreads, which in turn could provide insights in the area of treatment.

Cancer can be incredibly aggressive; as can the treatments for it. Given this, cancer and its treatments can have major effects on a person's physical health and capabilities. Consequently, some cancer sufferers lose the ability to work. Cancer victims who have suffered such a loss may have eligibility for disability benefits, such as benefits under the Social Security Disability program.

Source: Medical Xpress, "Cancer cells don't take 'drunken' walks through the body," March 11, 2014

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