These scientists reported that they now had evidence showing that the cancer cells could go to ‘sleep’ and by so doing, avoid chemotherapy effects and could then become active years later, sometimes after decades. This information was availed by a team of researchers at Institute of Cancer Research and said that this could be a good explanation for returning of some cancers many years despite seeming to have been fully cured.

Waking up of cancer cells

During the study, the researchers analyzed a patient that was diagnosed with returning leukemia 20 years after being declared fully cared. These findings could be of great help to scientists when it comes to rooting out the dormant cancer cells whereby they make them active so that they can kill them. Findings of the study were published in a journal of Leukemia whereby cancer cells that ‘woke up’ were found in a patient after nearly two decades and they were found to be very similar to the ones of the original disease.

The team took samples of bone marrow and blood from a patient who had been diagnosed with a rather rare kind of leukemia when the patient was just four years and the samples were taken to the ones taken when the disease relapsed 20 years later when aged 25 years. The researchers essentially identified some form of DNA mutation in the cancer cells from the two blood samples whereby the two genes known as ABL 1 and BCR tend to fuse together. According to them, this revealed a common link that existed between relapsing leukemia and the original leukemia.

When cancer cells go dormant

However, new genetic changes were also found to have occurred in cancer cells as well upon relapsing of the disease. The implications of this is that the cancer cells had gone dormant thereby being able to resist chemotherapy effects and after spending many years resting, they later woke up. These cells could have managed to survive since their growth rate was much slower compared to other cancer cells. Chemotherapy usually attacks cancer cells that divide rapidly and thus has no effect on the dormant cells.

The team leader was keen to add that as per their findings, the cunning nature of cancer cells was confirmed. The study provided a very striking evidence showing the evolution action of cancer whereby the cancer cells tend to lie dormant and get to avoid being treated after which they accumulate new mutations that are able to drive a new disease bout. Blood stem cells tend to fluctuate regularly between the sleeping or dormant cells and the quickly diving cells and this shows that cancer cells follow the trick as a way of ensuring that they survive chemotherapy and are thus not killed.