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Test tube breast cancer

10th May 2007

A UK research team has grown a three-dimensional model of breast cancer in a laboratory.

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Researchers at Queen Mary, University of London have grown the model in order to better understand how breast cancer progresses early on. It could potentially lead to new types of treatment for the disease.

The model is used to look at an early type of breast cancer called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). One in five breast cancers begin as DCIS.

Professor Louise Jones, professor of breast pathology at the Institute of Cancer at Queen Mary, said: "We grew the cells in three dimensions which allows them to form structures similar to the structures found in breast tissue."

Researchers cultivated three types of cells originating from both normal and cancerous breast tissue. They employed a collagen gel to create the three-dimensional structures.

They saw that particular cells in healthy breast tissue could stop the development of breast cancer cells, but cancerous breast cells could not. Professor Jones stated that investigating the reasons for the cells' behaviour could lay the foundation for new treatments.

The model could be used as an alternative to experiments where tumours are grown in animals.

Nicky Gordon, science officer at the Dr Hadwen Trust, who provided the research funding, said: "With breast cancer, there is an urgent need to move away from animal research models because their similarity to human cancer can be so poor."

"Further work is needed but the signs are good and this really could revolutionise breast cancer research."



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