The David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MITThe David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

National Cancer Institute Cancer Center

Science + Engineering... Conquering Cancer Together

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The relation between aneuploidy and cancer is more complicated than previously believed.

Seeking to better understand the link between abnormal chromosome number and tumor formation, Amon Lab researcher Jason Sheltzer (now a Fellow at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories) worked with KI colleagues to investigate the tumorigenic potential of cells engineered to contain an extra chromosome. While aneuploidy (when a cell has too many or too few chromosomes) is a common feature of cancer, its role in tumor initiation and progression is unclear. In this study, the researchers found that not-yet-malignant cells with a single added chromosome could, surprisingly, suppress tumor growth and better withstand a variety of oncogenic mutations. Sometimes, however, cells adapted to the aneuploidy  giving rise to fast-growing descendants that acquired additional aneuploidies or returned to the normal diploid state. These results, published in Cancer Cell, suggest that aneuploidy may have both tumor-protective and tumor-promoting effects on the development of cancer. This work was supported in part by the Kathy and the Curt Marble Cancer Research Fund. Read more here and here.