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A. Can Tumor Cells Behave Normally?

Narrator: This is Science Today. Breast cancer researchers are now studying the relationship between tumor cells and their surrounding environment to try and determine what goes wrong. Zena Werb, a professor of anatomy at the University of California, San Francisco likens the tumor cell's cellular environment to a neighborhood.

Werb: When the neighborhood is bad, then the kids who have a potential to be bad tend to go off and belong to gangs. If you take those same children and put them in a good neighborhood with lots of parental guidance, they behave well and often go on and do very good things. I think this is the cellular equivalent of that.

Narrator: In the cellular neighborhood of the breast, it's the epithelial cells which have a tendency to become Abad@, or cancerous.

Werb: So what scientists are doing, we're taking fairly normal looking tumors, we're putting them in a culture and then manipulating the environment to make them behave like a normal cell. But the light has finally gone off that if you put cells in a certain environment, even if they are tumor cells, they actually behave pretty normally.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.