The reason melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer stems from the curious ability of all of its cells to swap fates, according to a study publishing in __Cell__ this week.
Image: National Cancer Institute
"This is an important study," linkurl:David Fisher,; a researcher and dermatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, said in an email. "The work [helps] to explain several key features of melanoma -- which may well occur in other cancers as well." One of the defining characteristics of tumor cells is that they divide more rapidly than most tissues in the body. Chemotherapy and radiation are effective treatments for some cancers for that very reason: they target rapidly dividing cells. But recently researchers have found a second population of cells in the tumor, called cancer stem cells, which divide more slowly, are resistant to treatment, and quickly replenish the tumor mass after...
A. Roesch, et al., "A temporarily distinct subpopulation of slow-cycling melanoma cells is required for continuous tumor growth," __Cell,__ 141:583-94, 2010.

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