Cilia on Cells Adjacent to Tumors can Impact Signaling that Influences Cancer Growth and Response to Treatment

Erica Golemis, PhD
Erica Golemis, PhD

PHILADELPHIA (May 25, 2018) – A growing body of research shows that cilia, minuscule protuberances on the surface of some cells, play a pivotal role in determining whether cancer cells grow, spread, and respond to therapy. In a perspective article discussing current research published in the journal Nature Reviews Cancer, Erica Golemis, PhD, deputy chief science officer at Fox Chase Cancer Center, and co-authors from China and Russia, report that a new understanding of cilia has implications for the behavior of cancer drugs and tumors.

“Both tumor progression and therapeutic response depend on interactions between cancer cells and nearby non-cancerous cells within the tumor microenvironment,” according to the perspective. Golemis noted that some tumors and targeted cancer therapies can manipulate cells to either generate cilia or repress them, and that the unexpected absence or presence of cilia leads to confused communication among the cells, which supports cancer growth.

According to the perspective, because cilia protrude into the extracellular space, they are positioned as spatially restricted hubs that can receive cues from other cells. Several non-cancer cells have important roles in carcinogenesis and can exchange information with cancer cells to alternately promote tumor growth, provide resistance to environmental stresses or cancer therapies, or support metastasis.

The findings on cilia may eventually be used to help direct clinical decision-making.

“We and others are starting to realize that some targeted cancer drugs and chemotherapies change whether cells in the tumor microenvironment have cilia,” Golemis said. “Understanding the effects of tumors and drugs on ciliation is potentially paradigm shifting.”

NIH provides support for Dr. Golemis’s salary.

Fox Chase Cancer Center (Fox Chase), which includes the Institute for Cancer Research and the American Oncologic Hospital and is a part of Temple Health, is one of the leading comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase is also one of just 10 members of the Alliance of Dedicated Cancer Centers. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence six consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach. It is the policy of Fox Chase Cancer Center that there shall be no exclusion from, or participation in, and no one denied the benefits of, the delivery of quality medical care on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, disability, age, ancestry, color, national origin, physical ability, level of education, or source of payment.

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