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What If It Can't Be Stopped?

A team led by researchers at Kiel University has found that tumors can occur naturally in Hydra, suggesting that "spontaneous tumors have deep evolutionary roots" as they wrote in Nature Communications earlier this summer.

They examined polyps from Hydra oligactis and Pelmatohydra robusta that had altered morphology and tumor-like properties, including the ability to be established as a clonal line.

Histological and molecular analysis of these two lines indicated that Hydra tumors are made up of cells similar to female germline precursor cells, though transcriptome analysis found that the tumor cells have a different gene expression profile from the germline precursor cells. They also noted the Hydra gene homologous to the human anti-apoptotic tpt1 gene is upregulated in Hydra tumors, as compared to female and asexual control polyps.

The Kiel team also transplanted Hydra tumor cells into healthy Hydra, where the tumor cells then invaded the healthy tissue.

This, senior author Thomas Bosch from Kiel tells NPR, suggest that the ability to develop cancer may be "an intrinsic property" of cells.

Of course, Bosch adds, "that doesn't mean that, with a patient who develops cancer, there's nothing you can do."