A team of scientists successfully managed to convert breast cancer cells into fat in order to prevent them from spreading. In a study conducted on mice, the team used certain pathways in the body to exploit metastasising cancer cells by dividing them and converting them into fat cells.
Cancer can spread in the body, as well as metastasise, by using two pathways in the body - epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and mesenchymal‐to‐epithelial transition (MET).Scientists used a drug used to treat diabetes called rosiglitazone and a cancer treatment called trametinib to treat the mice with an aggressive form of human breast cancer. The team discovered when cancer cells were exposed to the drugs they attempted to transition via the MET or EMT pathways. However, this caused them to transform into fat cells instead of spreading. This process is known as adipogenesis.
"The models used in this study have allowed the evaluation of disseminating cancer cell adipogenesis in the immediate tumour surroundings," authors of the study stated. Adding,"The results indicate that in a patient-relevant setting combined therapy with rosiglitazone and trametinib specifically targets cancer cells with increased plasticity and induces their adipogenesis."
Even though all this was not effective on all cancer cells as some didn't change, the team found that the ones that did change did not change back into breast cancer cells. "The breast cancer cells that underwent an EMT not only differentiated into fat cells, but also completely stopped proliferating," senior author of the study Gerhard Christofori, a biochemist at the University of Basel in Switzerland, told a news portal. Adding, "As far as we can tell from long-term culture experiments, the cancer cells-turned-fat cells remain fat cells and do not revert back to breast cancer cells."
The team strongly believe a combination therapy that includes Rosiglitazone and trametinib helped convert these cells into fat. "Adipogenic differentiation therapy with a combination of rosiglitazone and [trametinib] efficiently inhibits cancer cell invasion, dissemination, and metastasis formation in various preclinical mouse models of breast cancer," the team told a news portal.
These two drugs already have the FDA stamp of approval, which will make testing this treatment on humans easier and quicker. Currently, the team is looking into how this form of therapy could work with chemotherapy. "In future, this innovative therapeutic approach could be used in combination with conventional chemotherapy to suppress both primary tumour growth and the formation of deadly metastases," Christofori told a news portal.
The study's findings were originally published in the journal Cancer Cell.