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Self-Cannibalizing Cancer Cells Targeted

Self-Cannibalizing Cancer Cells Targeted

A team of scientists from Princeton University and The Cancer Institute of New Jersey has embarked on a major new project to unravel the secret lives of cancer cells that go dormant and self-cannibalize to survive periods of stress.

The work may help produce new cancer therapies to stem changes that render cancer cells dangerous and resistant to treatment.

"We want to know: What role is this self-cannibalization playing in the middle of a tumor?" said team member Hilary Coller, an assistant professor of molecular biology at Princeton. "To treat cancer, it may be that you want to get rid of this ability in tumor cells, so we're searching for inducers and inhibitors of this process."

From left, Princeton scientists Hilary Coller and Joshua Rabinowitz, in collaboration with Eileen White of the Cancer Institute of New Jersey and Rutgers University, are using a variety of scientific techniques to explore how some cancer cells self-cannibalize and go dormant to tolerate extreme stress.

Funded by a $1 million National Institutes of Health Challenge Grant through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, the project may lead to new treatment regimes that inhibit this ability and kill cancer cells while allowing normal cells to survive.

Eileen White, associate director for basic science at CINJ, Coller and Princeton chemist Joshua Rabinowitz recently received a $1 million National Institutes of Health Challenge Grant through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act to support the research effort, which is made possible by the longstanding partnership between Princeton and CINJ.

The two institutions recently formalized their relationship when Princeton officially joined CINJ as a scientific collaborator to enhance current investigations and foster future work at the frontier of cancer research. CINJ is a Center of Excellence of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and New Jersey's only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center.


"To determine whether specific genes play a role in autophagy in proliferating and quiescent cells, Coller's team reduces the activity of these genes and then determines the amount of autophagy within the cell. To assess autophagy levels in one previous experiment, Sarah Pfau, who earned her bachelor's degree from Princeton in 2008, exposed the cells to a fluorescently labeled antibody that recognizes a protein present on autophagosomes, the structures that cells form to perform autophagy. Areas within the cell where autophagy was taking place glowed green when observed under a fluorescent microscope. (Credit: Sarah Pfau)"

Source: Princeton University

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