It's thought that cancer cells are able to endlessly replicate themselves as they spread through the body. But far from being "immortal," a new study in Pigment Cell & Melanoma Research shows the cells seem unable to multiply at will, reports New Scientist's Andy Coghlan. By studying the molecular profiles of skin cancer cells as they grow in the lab, the researchers found that many appear to hit a "telomere crisis" and stop dividing when the tips of the chromosomes become so short that the cell mistakes them for DNA breaks and tries to repair them, Coghlan says. "The team found that the few cancer cells that are immortal activate telomerase reverse transcriptase, a part of the telomerase enzyme that rebuilds telomeres so they avoid a telomere crisis," he adds. Cancer Research UK recently launched a trial to stop the spread of pancreatic cancer with a vaccine made of fragments of telomerase reverse transcriptase and a similar vaccine against acute myeloid leukemia is being tested in California, Coghlan says.
So Much for Immortality
Apr 22, 2011