Intestinal cancer cell takes advantage of healthy cell

6 Jul 2021 17:05

Body cells give each other all kinds of signals to properly coordinate decisions in tissues, such as growth. New research by Saskia Suijkerbuijk, Ana Krotenberg Garcia and colleagues shows that intestinal cancer cells use competitive signals to kill surrounding healthy intestinal cells and grow better themselves. It confirms that surrounding tissue also plays a role in tumor growth and that we need to study this closely.


1. Cancer cells (blue) kill surrounding small intestine cells (purple) in this so-called organoid, a mini-gut in the lab. Dying intestinal cells turn yellow. This mini-gut consists of about a thousand cells.

2. In response to cancer cells killing gut cells, healthy gut cells (purple) activate the fetal protein SCA-1 (yellow) when cancer cells are nearby (right). In doing so, they begin to resemble cells at an early stage of embryonic development. Gut cells do not do this when they are alone (left).

3. Healthy gut cells (purple) survive the presence of cancer cells (green) if the researchers actively inhibit specific stress signals (right). In the left image, those signals are not inhibited, and the healthy cells lose out.

Video Darmkanker Foto
4. Cancer cells (green) even grow on average one and a half times faster when they compete with healthy gut cells (right) than when they are alone (left).

The Dutch Cancer Society financially supported this research.