Quirks & Quarks

Scientists Make Cancer Cells Benign

Leukemia cells given growth factors are forced to mature and become benign

Cancerous cells are transformed and made harmless

Leukemia B-cells on top and benign macrophages on bottom. (PNAS/Ravi Majeti)
Cancer cells are a little like violent juvenile delinquents. The cells don't mature properly, they reproduce irresponsibly, and they can gang up to violently disrupt their environments.

But Dr. Ravi Majeti, an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, has found a way to force leukemia cells to grow into mature and productive members of the cellular community.

He and his group noticed in cell culture that addition of certain growth factors would cause cancerous immature B-cells, a type of immune cell, to mature into a different kind of immune cell: a macrophage. These newly matured macrophages seemed to have no cancerous properties, and functioned as normal cells.

Cellular "reprogramming" like this could be a productive new avenue for research into fighting cancer.

Related Links

- Paper in PNAS
- Stanford University release