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British scientists identify kidney cancer's cellular origin

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-08-10 14:47

British scientists revealed the precise identity of cancer cells of the most common childhood and adult kidney cancers, according to a study published on Thursday in the journal Science.

Researchers from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, the University of Cambridge, University of Newcastle and their collaborators showed that the cancer cells were versions of specific healthy cells from developing or adult kidneys.

This study could lead to the development of completely new methods of treating kidney cancers, which could persuade the cancerous cells to develop in specific ways into safer cells.

The most prevalent adult kidney cancer is renal cell carcinomas and the most prevalent childhood kidney cancer is Wilms' tumor.

Researchers investigated more than 72,000 individual kidney cells from healthy and cancerous tissue, comparing Wilms' tumour and renal cell carcinoma cells with normal cells from developing, children's, teen or adult kidneys.

Using a powerful technique called single cell RNA sequencing, they discovered that children's Wilms' cancer cells have the same characteristics as a specific normal developing kidney cell, indicating that these kidney cells failed to develop properly in the womb.

"Wilms' tumour cells have the same characteristics of a normal developing kidney cell, which may have got stuck during development," said Sam Behjati, leader of the study from the Wellcome Sanger Institute.

"This could lead to an entirely new model for treating childhood cancer, by manipulating the development state of the cells instead of trying to kill them with chemotherapy," said Behjati.

The researchers also discovered that the adult renal carcinoma cells are a version of a specific rare subtype of healthy adult kidney cell, called PT1.

They found that despite genetic differences, all the renal carcinoma cells studied had developed the same PT1 characteristics.

Those results could provide the basis of a new method for treating cancer by targeting this PT1 cell specifically.

Muzlifah Haniffa, a corresponding author on the paper from Newcastle University, said: "Using large-scale single cell RNA sequencing, we could precisely define the characteristics of kidney tumor cells for the first time, and compare them with healthy reference kidney cells from different development stages and ages."

"This approach will help towards understanding not only kidney cancer, but many other diseases that have their origin during development," said Haniffa.

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