Researchers from Duke University have discovered a miniature digestive system inside a lung tumor. The team was surprised to see a mini stomach, duodenum and even small intestine hidden away in this cancer sample.
As reported in the journal Development Cell, the researchers discovered that the cancerous cells lost a gene called NKX2-1. This gene acts like a master switch, telling lung cells how to develop and it appears that without it, cells begin to develop like the gut. This incredible ability to change gives cancer another redoubtable way to fight off treatments.
“Cancer cells will do whatever it takes to survive,” lead author Professor Purushothama Rao Tata said in a statement. “Upon treatment with chemotherapy, lung cells shut down some of the key cell regulators and pick up the characteristics of other cells in order to gain resistance.”