Science, although it may feel slow for those who have to deal with the daily struggle of suffering from breast cancer, in this particular case, is actually advancing heaps and bounds every day through amazing discoveries that take us closer to curing this horrible disease for good.
One of the latest findings of the bioengineering team at Berkeley is that mechanical forces, in this case compression of the malignant tissue cells, could actually shape the cells back into a healthy pattern and consequently end the wacky growth pattern that eventually leads to tumors.
We owe this fascinating new notion to Mina Bissell, Distinguished Scientist at the Berkeley Lab who, according to News Center, “conducted pioneering experiments that showed that a malignant cell is not doomed to become a tumor, but that its fate is dependent on its interaction with the surrounding microenvironment.” This is a breakthrough discovery, as most studies had been focused on the genetics of it all. It now appears that regardless of genetic predisposition, a cell’s interaction with its surroundings plays a key role in the development of cancer.
Therefore, controlling this environment with the help of certain drugs could “tame mammary cells into behaving normally.”
Dr. Bissell explains that as the breast tissue changes often during a woman’s life according to her hormonal cycle, for example when it needs to produce breast milk, some cells “forget” their normal growth pattern and start to grow erratically. But according to the tests she has done with her team, they could be reminded of how to behave. “Malignant cells have not completely forgotten how to be healthy, explains Gautham Venugopalan, a member of Dr. Bissell’s team. They just need the right cues to guide them back into a healthy pattern.”
While none of this is suggesting we could save our beloved breasts with something as simple as a compression bra, it has provided cancer research experts a new avenue to explore and that, we can all be grateful for.