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Scientists turn cancer cells to muscle

(NewsNation) — Researchers have found a way to turn cells from an aggressive type of cancer into muscle cells, offering a potential new treatment for rhabdomyosarcoma.

Cancer occurs when cells begin to divide and grow uncontrollably, destroying tissue. Rhabdomyosarcoma is a cancer that typically originates in the skeletal muscle and usually affects adolescents and children.

The findings could eventually provide an alternative to current cancer treatments like surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, which are tough on all patients but can be especially difficult for children.

Researchers were able to turn cancer cells into muscle cells by causing the tumors to lose all cancer attributes.

The scientists used genome-editing technology to determine which genes would force rhabdomyosarcoma cells to become muscle cells if disrupted. They found a protein, NF-Y, which, when impaired, resulted in the cells shifting from cancer to muscle.

“The cells literally turn into muscle. The tumor loses all cancer attributes. They’re switching from a cell that just wants to make more of itself to cells devoted to contraction. Because all its energy and resources are now devoted to contraction, it can’t go back to this multiplying state,” said researcher and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Professor Christopher Vakoc.

At this point, the research is limited to the lab. It could take years or even decades before scientists can bring it to patients.

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