A new research has shown for the first time cancer's ability to fuse with blood cells in a way that gives cancer the ability to travel, allowing previously stationary cancer cells to enter the bloodstream and seed sites of metastasis around the body.
The work, by the University of Colorado Cancer Center along with Yale University and the Denver Crime Lab, used DNA fingerprinting of a bone marrow transplant patient with cancer, along with DNA fingerprinting of the patient's bone marrow donor, to show that subsequent metastatic cancer cells in the patient's body carried parts of both genomes, fused together into a hybrid cancer cell.
Metastasis is responsible for the overwhelming majority of cancer deaths and there are many theories as to how it occurs, but the problem remains yet unsolved.
John Pawelek, PhD, at Yale has pointed out that the combination of a cancer cell with a blood cell could explain how a cancer cell acquires the ability to move through the body.
The problem is there has been no way to prove this through genetic analyses of the tumor cells - they are too similar to the patient's non-tumor cells and so you can't tell if the mutations that allow a cancer cell to travel arose in the cell itself or through fusion with another source.
The research is published in the journal PLoS ONE.