Scientists Trace Origin Cell of Bone, Soft Tissue Tumors

According to a study out of Duke University and published in the journal Cell Reports, scientists have discovered a type of cell surrounding blood vessels can also serve as a starting point for sarcoma, a form of cancer that occurs in bones and connective tissues. The study was conducted on mice and show insights that could help develop new treatments for a rare, but devastating cancer that has 15,000 new diagnoses annually in the U.S.

The researchers traced the cancer back to the pericyte, a cell that supports the body’s blood vessels. According to the findings, genetic mutations in these cells led to osteosarcoma and soft-tissue sarcoma, as well as non-cancerous tumors.

“About half of all sarcomas in the U.S, affect people under 35,” said one researcher. “This cancer is difficult to treat, and for those who survive, they are living with the effects for decades. With new chemotherapies and surgery, we have seen long-term survival improve to about 60 to 65 percent, but advances have leveled off in recent years. WE hope that by looking at the biological development of the tumor, we can come up with new ways to intervene.”

The researchers found that in comparison to the pericytes from which they originated, cancer cells contained less of a protein called beta catenin. The author notes that at some point, the beta catenin was “turned off” in the cell. When it was activated (through the use of lithium, a drug already in use in patients) the size and growth of the cancers appeared to be limited. With this study, researchers now have a baseline to compare to that they didn’t have before.

“Lithium has been tried in lung cancer treatments, so perhaps we could see it being used down the road to suppress sarcomas,” the researcher said. “It’s premature to do clinical trials in humans at this point. The next step is to grow larger numbers of human sarcomas in mice and treat them with lithium to see whether this can stop or even shrink existing tumors.


raziRazi Berry, Founder and Publisher of Naturopathic Doctor News & Review (ndnr.com) and NaturalPath (thenatpath.com), has spent the last decade as a natural medicine advocate and marketing whiz. She has galvanized and supported the naturopathic community, bringing a higher quality of healthcare to millions of North Americans through her publications. A self-proclaimed health-food junkie and mother of two; she loves all things nature, is obsessed with organic gardening, growing fruit trees (not easy in Phoenix), laughing until she snorts, and homeschooling. She is a little bit crunchy and yes, that is her real name.

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