Cancer Deconstructed: Investigating the Role of Non-Cancerous Cells in a Lung Tumor

This image, captured by Vasilena Gocheva, illustrates the communications that pass between cancer cells and the "healthy" cells that assist in tumor progression.

Vasilena Gocheva
Jacks Laboratory
Koch Institute at MIT

If you took apart a tumor, what would you find inside? There would be cancer cells, of course, but scientists are increasingly aware that a wide variety of “healthy” cells also reside in tumors and contribute to cancer progression. Here, MIT researchers have removed two cell types from a lung tumor: cancer cells (smaller) and fibroblasts (larger), which normally help to heal wounds in the body. By mapping out exactly what these non-cancerous cells are doing inside tumors and how they interact with cancer cells, the researchers hope to identify new ways of targeting and treating lung cancer.

Vasilena Gocheva tells the story behind her award-winning image.