The new research shows that identical copies of chromosomes (called sister chromatids) are not always randomly distributed to the daughter cells, as was previously thought. This novel finding paves the way for further research studies to test whether this behavior is altered in cancer cells when they divide.
Published today in the prestigious journal Nature, a group headed by Dr. Peter Lansdorp – Principal Investigator and researcher at the BC Cancer Agency – examined how the chromatids are assigned to daughter cells during cell division. Using an innovative approach to mark chromatids with different colored dyes, they identified which chromatid went to which daughter cell, and found that in some cells, the chromatids were assigned instead of being randomly distributed. They propose that this mechanism could have a role in determining the fate of cells in normal development, and in the abnormal growth of cancer cells.
“This research has provided a whole new way of looking at cell fate and cell division,” says Dr. Ester Falconer, a Post-Doctoral fellow at BC Cancer Agency’s Terry Fox Laboratory. “This becomes especially important when studying cancer, because now we know there could be another level of regulation that can be affected when cells turn cancerous.”
The next step is to look at such events of cell division in dividing cancer cells.
“This is the first study of many and provides the groundwork for future research,” says Dr. Lansdorp, who is also a Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at UBC. “We now have the tools to look at cell division more directly” Lansdorp adds. Future studies will use this approach, with the hope that researchers will develop a better understanding of how normal cells divide and how cancer starts and progresses at the cellular level.
This advance is another result of the collaborative effort of BC Cancer Agency’s research labs including Dr. David Huntsman, Dr. Sam Aparicio and members of the Lansdorp laboratory.
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Canadian Cancer Society, as well as the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research and the Terry Fox Foundation provided research funding. The research could also not have been possible without generous funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund, the Blusson Fund of the University of British Columbia, and the Mahon Family and the core support for research provided to the BC Cancer Agency by the BC Cancer Foundation.
About the BCCA
The BC Cancer Agency, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, is committed to reducing the incidence of cancer, reducing the mortality from cancer, and improving the quality of life of those living with cancer. It provides a comprehensive cancer control program for the people of British Columbia by working with community partners to deliver a range of oncology services, including prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, research, education, supportive care, rehabilitation and palliative care. The BC Cancer Foundation raises funds to support research and enhancements to patient care at the BC Cancer Agency.
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