The Loh Down On Science

Talking Tumors

When a tumor talks ... you don't want to listen.

?This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

?In a microscopic land, deep deep inside of you, cells are talking to keep you alive. Different cells say things like: “Heart, beat faster,” “Brain, think harder!” or “Stomach, digest that second slice of cake!”  But of course your cells don’t converse in English.  They use chemicals. All this chemical chatter keeps your body functioning.
 
But when unhealthy cells like cancer enter the dialogue, bad things start to happen.
?Researchers at the Broad Institute have found that cancer cells actually learn healthy cell’s lingo.  Like spies, they can then trick healthy cells into keeping the cancer alive. They found that when drugs tried to kill cancer cells, the healthy cells actually emitted a chemical called HGF to protect the cancer! 
 
Meanwhile, the cancer cells continued to grow and grow, eventually crowding out the healthy cells. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!  So now scientists are studying how to halt HGF.
 
In which case, all that cancer talk will go to sweet nothings.  Hurray.

<em>The Loh Down on Science</em> is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena, California. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


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