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images of cancer cell growth without tumour microenvironment

During tumour initiation, pre-neoplastic cells (cells carrying oncogenic mutations) within the tissue establish different interactions with their microenvironment compared to normal cells. Therefore, the niche is likely to be co-initiated alongside the cancer cells as a spontaneous new interaction between normal and mutated cells.

The mutations required for malignant cell transformation alone are not sufficient to unleash the tumorigenic potential required to initiate tumour growth. A testimony to this is the fact that even malignant breast cancer cells show a tissue-like growth in a normalizing extracellular matrix environment. Indeed, malignant cells can maintain this benign growth modality within the breast organ by a lack of tissue host interactions (Figure). 

We investigate the early events within the tissue in response to oncogenic stimulation that are required for cancer cell generation. We also investigate the early perturbation in the tissue microenvironment caused by emerging cancer cells, which favour their persistence and outgrowth.

Figure: malignant breast cancer cells grown in breast tissue when allowed (left) or not allowed (right) to engage in contact with tissue cells. Haematoxylin and eosin stain.