A new, more precise method to model the interface between cancerous and non-cancerous cells is described online this week in Nature Communications. This technique may boost our understanding of tumour progression and of the efficacy of therapeutic interventions.
Cancer progression has been linked to complex changes in gene expression with the exact physical location of cells appearing to play a part - cells closer to the interface between cancerous and normal cells can have different gene expression profiles to those that are further away.
Biju Parekkadan and colleagues have developed a new system that enables them to organise cancerous and non-cancerous cells into distinct, spatial compartments, then use microscopy-based laser capture to dissect out single cells for molecular analysis.
Using their new method the authors were able to show how one anti-cancer drug, reversine, has its strongest effects in cells that are physically close to the interface between cancerous and normal cells; a finding that was subsequently borne out in tests in mice. This model could be used to highlight other drugs that work in a similar manner, as well as fine tuning the treatment regimens for cancer drugs that are already available.