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Cellular cannibalism ? Ever heard of it?


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Hello All.......A year ago I had surgery (after having the rad/chemo) to remove URL & had clean scans for awhile. Then a CT scan showed lymph node enlargement in left mediasterium.

I had a bronchoscopy done on 12-12-08 & among other things part of the microscopic comment included the phrase "cellular cannibalism is also noted. The cell block emphsizes signet ring features."

I saw my onc at a later date & asked him about it & he says he's never heard the phrase. Now I am wondering if that means that cancerous cells are eating up noncancerous cells.

Kinda scary sounding to me....anyone know about this?

Any help much appreciated.


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I googled the term cell cannibalism and this was the easiest to understand !!!!

I hope it helps at least a little..



http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_o ... c5a8fd7ff3

Cannibalism: A way to feed on metastatic tumors

Stefano Fais, a,

aDepartment of Drug Research and Evaluation, Section of Pharmacogenetic, Drug Resistance and Experimental Therapeutic, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy

Received 6 June 2007; revised 10 September 2007; accepted 11 September 2007. Available online 30 October 2007.


Cannibalism of tumors is an old story for pathologists, but it remained a mystery for at least one century. Recent data highlighted tumor cannibalism as a key advantage in tumor malignancy, possibly involved in resistance of tumors to the specific immune reaction. However, new data suggests also that metastatic tumor cells may use this peculiar function to feed in conditions of low nutrient supply. This makes malignant cancer cells more similar to microorganisms, rather than to normal cells undergoing malignant transformation. In cytological or histological samples of human tumors it is common to detect cells with one or many vacuoles, possibly containing cells under degradation, that push the nucleus to the periphery giving it the shape of a crescent moon. The cannibal cells may feed on sibling tumor cells, but also of the lymphocytes that should kill them. Cannibal cells eat everything without distinguishing between the feeding materials, with a mechanism that mostly differ from typical phagocytosis. Despite such phenomenon is considered mainly non-selective, a molecular framework of factors that contribute to cannibalism has been described. This machinery includes the presence of an acidic environment that allows a continuous activation of specific lytic enzymes, such as cathepsin B. Cannibalism occurs in apparently well defined structures whose main actors are big caveolar-like vacuoles and a connection between caveolin-1 and the actin cytoskeleton through the actin-linker molecule ezrin. Each of the components of the cannibal framework may represent specific tumor targets for future new strategies against cancer.

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Thanks for finding that info for me. I really have a hard time understanding sometimes just what is going on. The medical terms are so hard to understand.

I wish that any doctor that a patient has an appt. with would give out the previous written report at the beginning of the office visit so that the report can be gone over & any questions answered. Actually I wouldn't even get one if I didn't ask. They (the office staff) are willing to make copies but by then the doctor is seeing the next patient. Then on the way home I try to read & understand what the report says. And then I am left with questions until the next time I see that doctor. (They are not always good about returning calls).

But I am glad that I can come here & get good info.

Thanks again......Creekgirl

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You are so welcome!!

I went through pages and pages of sites to find something that I could make some sense of! I was not sure that was what you were looking for but it did make sense when I ready it over.

I agree with you about the doctors.. I wish they would think on a patients level when they are explaining things. I guess they all lose sight of the fact we are not all versed in doctor~talk!

Hugs to you


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