Alphagalileo > Item Display

New method used to study how cancer cells are organised

20/09/2021 Uppsala Universitet

Changes in individual cancer cells over time may explain why brain tumours develop so differently, and why some cancer cells are resistant to certain treatments. To track the development of cancer cells, researchers at Uppsala University have devised a new method that, in the long term, may make it easier to develop new, effective drug combinations. The research is presented in the journal Molecular Systems Biology.

Peer review/Experimental study/Cells

A brain tumour comprises numerous different kinds of cancer cells with a variety of characteristics, partly resembling cell types found in a healthy brain. Previously, it has been difficult to study how this diversity arises. However, its origin has a crucial bearing on which strategy can be used for drug development. If the cancer cells are hierarchically organised, a good approach to reducing the tumour is to attack the cells at the top of the hierarchy. If, on the other hand, the cell types are more flexibly organised, other treatment strategies are needed.

“To understand how the various cell types are organised, we had to develop a method of tracking individual cells and their offspring over time. We also needed a procedure for quantitatively evaluating the results, and that’s why the interdisciplinary collaboration emerged,” says Professor Sven Nelander.

The new method was developed in collaboration with Chalmers University of Technology. The scientists combined profiling of individual cells, using a “barcoding” technique with mathematical modelling and computer simulations. By applying the method to cancer cells from three patients with brain tumours, the researchers showed that the organisation appears to be hierarchical, but with some degree of flexibility. There are also clear patient-specific features. They also demonstrated that cell organisation itself is influenced by the drug treatment.

“The active substance temozolomide, which is the standard chemotherapy treatment for brain tumours, seems to steer the cells against a more invasive cell type. According to our model, temozolomide combined with a drug aimed specifically against that cell type should be an effective way of attacking the tumour,” says Ida Larsson, PhD, one of the main authors of the study.

“We think this method has great potential. Besides assisting the development of therapies against brain tumours, our method can be used on other types of cancer where, at present, no effective treatment methods exist.”
Ida Larsson et al (2021) Modeling glioblastoma heterogeneity as a dynamic network of cell states, Molecular Systems Biology, DOI: 10.15252/msb.202010105
20/09/2021 Uppsala Universitet
Regions: Europe, Sweden
Keywords: Health, Medical, Science, Life Sciences


For well over a decade, in my capacity as a researcher, broadcaster, and producer, I have relied heavily on Alphagalileo.
All of my work trips have been planned around stories that I've found on this site.
The under embargo section allows us to plan ahead and the news releases enable us to find key experts.
Going through the tailored daily updates is the best way to start the day. It's such a critical service for me and many of my colleagues.
Koula Bouloukos, Senior manager, Editorial & Production Underknown
We have used AlphaGalileo since its foundation but frankly we need it more than ever now to ensure our research news is heard across Europe, Asia and North America. As one of the UK’s leading research universities we want to continue to work with other outstanding researchers in Europe. AlphaGalileo helps us to continue to bring our research story to them and the rest of the world.
Peter Dunn, Director of Press and Media Relations at the University of Warwick
AlphaGalileo has helped us more than double our reach at SciDev.Net. The service has enabled our journalists around the world to reach the mainstream media with articles about the impact of science on people in low- and middle-income countries, leading to big increases in the number of SciDev.Net articles that have been republished.
Ben Deighton, SciDevNet

We Work Closely With...

  • BBC
  • The Times
  • National Geographic
  • The University of Edinburgh
  • University of Cambridge
Copyright 2021 by DNN Corp Terms Of Use Privacy Statement