Just as people tend to become stuck in their ways as they grow older so too do cells. Neurons in the brain don’t one day decide to become heart cells; skin cells repair wounds with skin cells rather than kidney cells.
Cancer cells, on the other hand, are like perpetual teenagers. They’re constantly trying on different identities and roles, which is partly what makes them so hard to control.
In research published February 10 in Nature Medicine, a team of scientists at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Weill Cornell Medicine reports that this developmental shape-shifting is key to cancer’s ability to spread (metastasize) and interact with the body’s immune defenses.