Researchers show how a tumor cell’s location and environment affect its identity

June 26, 2023
New approach could provide insights into cancer progression and treatment response, leading to more precise therapies.

Using 3-D models of ovarian cancer tumors, scientists found differences in gene activity based on where a cell is in a tumor, demonstrating how a cell’s location and environment in a cancerous tumor can strongly influence which genes are active and the cell’s role in the cancer’s biology. More specifically, the team co-led by researchers at the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), part of the National Institutes of Health, showed that gene activity in cells at or near a tumor’s surface differed from that of cells closer to the tumor center.

The approach pairs the use of a technology to reveal the genetic activity of single cells within a tumor with fluorescent dyes that spread into tumors. The work could allow researchers to study how the same diseases can vary in people and progress differently. This research could help clinicians identify treatment strategies focused on specific areas in tumors, which could lead to better therapies for cancers and other diseases. The team reported its results June 21 in Cell Systems.

NIH release