Scientists find mini gastrointestinal tract growing inside tumor

Embedded in a lung cancer tumor, scientists have found a gastrointestinal tract in miniature.

Duke University researchers have observed rudimentary, but functional, stomachs, small intestines, and duodenums growing inside cancerous lungs — illustrating how varied and plastic these metastatic cells can be.

Cancerous cells, after all, use the very same developmental mechanisms as healthy cells do to adapt and survive. So scientists are observing an example of some cells mutating into their developmental cousins.

“During development, the lung and the esophagus all come from the same endodermal progenitor cells,” said Purushothama Rao Tata, lead author of a study about the research and an assistant professor of cell biology at Duke University.  “What we think is that these cancer cells in the lung slide into the nearest developmental neighborhood.”

The work was [published this week](http://www.cell.com/developmental-cell/fulltext/S1534-5807(18%2930156-4) in the journal Developmental Cell.

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