American Family Children's Hospital

New Clue in Defeating Cancer

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Researchers at the UW Carbone Cancer Center have discovered a new form of human cell division. They believe this newly observed process, which they've dubbed klerokinesis, serves as a natural back-up mechanism during faulty cell division, preventing some cells from going down a path that can lead to cancer.


Principal researcher, Mark Burkard, MD, PhD, is an assistant professor of hematology and oncology at University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and sees patients in the UW Health Breast Center. As a physician scientist, Dr. Burkard uses what he sees in the clinic to help frame his research and to more quickly translate what he learns in the lab to patient care.


Says Dr. Burkard, "If we can promote this new form of cell division we may be able to prevent some cancers."


Dr. Burkard's team studies cancers in cells that contain more than the usual two sets of chromosomes. About 14 percent of breast cancers and 35 percent of pancreatic cancers have three or more sets of chromosomes.


Based on a centuries old hypothesis that faulty division creates cells with abnormal chromosomes and unchecked growth, Dr. Burkard's team mimicked cancer by making cells with too many chromosomes. They started with two nuclei in one cell, expecting to see the traditional steps of cell division, but were surprised to see the cell divide into two without going through the normal mitosis process.


Dr. Burkard now thinks cytokinesis, the process in which a single cell divides to form two daughter cells, sometimes fails during an organism's many rounds of cell division, and that this new process allows cells to recover and grow normally.