Researchers at the Barcelona Biomedical Research Institute (IRB) have identified residual colon cancer tumor cells hidden in the liver and lung in a study using animal models and have characterized how they evolve until they give rise to the appearance of metastases in these organs.
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Magazine Nature has published the results of the work in which they have generated an experimental mouse model that recreates the process followed by colon cancer patients who suffer relapses, which normally goes through diagnosis, curative surgery and metastasis in other organs, reported this Wednesday the center in a statement.
Most patients with colon cancer are diagnosed when the tumor is still located in the colon or rectum, which is removed with a surgical procedure accompanied in many cases by chemotherapy to prevent relapses in the disease.
However, the cancer recurs in other vital organs in the form of metastases in between 20 and 35% of these patients due to residual tumor cells that remain hidden at the time of surgery, mainly in the liver or lung.
Researchers have identified a population of tumor cells that are capable of shedding cancer in the colon, migrating to the bloodstream, reaching the liver, and remaining hidden for some time after surgery.
In samples from patients with this type of cancer, they have confirmed the presence of these same cells in patients who have a higher risk of recurrence of the disease after treatment.
Likewise, they have observed that if they eliminate these cells by means of genetic techniques, it is enough to prevent the formation of metastases: the mice have remained disease-free after surgery, without suffering relapses.