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Cancer Warrior
Cancer Caught on Video

As chronicled in the NOVA program "Cancer Warrior," one of Dr. Judah Folkman's most significant findings in a career rife with discoveries was that cancerous tumors appear to trigger the growth of new blood vessels, which the tumors need to thrive. Here we present a series of remarkable microscope views of various stages in cancer growth and angiogenesis, or growth of new blood vessels. Shot during experiments with laboratory chicken embryos and mice, the clips follow a natural progression of cancer spread, from early events up to the point when a tumor requires angiogenesis to keep growing. The images, some color and some black-and-white, were shot by Dr. Ann Chambers and her colleagues at the University of Western Ontario using a microscope outfitted with a video camera. In many of the clips, you'll notice the camera focus changing. Dr. Chambers wrote the captions that accompany each clip.

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Early metastasis
1. Early metastasis
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This sequence shows an early step in the spread of a cancer (a process called metastasis). A breast cancer cell has traveled in the bloodstream and has arrived at the liver, where it stops because it is too big to keep moving through the tiny blood vessels to get to another organ. The cell appears bright because it has been labeled with a fluorescent dye to help identify it.
Escaping the bloodstream
2. Escaping the bloodstream
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An early step in metastasis. This cancer cell has escaped from the bloodstream and is partly wrapped around the outside of a blood vessel. Because of this, it does not need to attract new blood vessels at this stage.
Cell division
3. Cell division
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The first step in the growth of a new, metastatic cancer. This cancer is made up of two cells, which formed from the cell division of a single cell that had escaped out of the bloodstream. It still does not need angiogenesis at this stage, and it is growing next to a pre-existing blood vessel.


Small tumor
4. Small tumor
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This shows a very small metastatic cancer, early in its development. This is a melanoma tumor, so it appears black. It is growing around a blood vessel, and you can see its three-dimensional shape as the microscope focuses up and down through it. This small tumor still does not need to attract new blood vessels to support its growth, because the blood vessel that it surrounds can support its growth at this size.
Attracting blood vessels
5. Attracting blood vessels
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As tumors grow larger, they begin to develop the need for angiogenesis and must attract new blood vessels if they are to keep growing. This small melanoma cancer is beginning to show signs of blood vessel activity inside it, and these might be 'angiogenic' new blood vessels.
New blood vessels (liver)
6. New blood vessels (liver)
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This melanoma tumor is larger, about half a millimeter wide, or roughly the size of a tiny grain of sand. By this stage, the tumor needs to continuously attract new vessels to keep on growing. The normal liver tissue (lighter color) shows normal, healthy blood flow, and the tumor (darker color) shows new, angiogenic blood vessels with irregular shapes and blood flow, especially visible in the higher magnification clip.
New blood vessels (body cavity)
7. New blood vessels (body cavity)
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This melanoma tumor, also about a half a millimeter wide, is growing on the body cavity wall of a mouse. The black portion is the tumor and shows abnormal 'angiogenic' blood vessels, while the normal tissue (lighter color) has more normal blood flow.
Continuous angiogenesis
8. Continuous angiogenesis
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This tumor, about a tenth of a millimeter wide and three-tenths of a millimeter long, is also growing on the body cavity wall. It has attracted new blood vessels to grow up to it from the normal muscle tissue below. When tumors get to be this size, they need continuous angiogenesis to keep on growing, otherwise their growth will stop.
Normal, healthy blood vessels
9. Normal, healthy blood vessels
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This view, taken with a color video camera, shows normal, healthy blood vessels in mouse mammary (breast) tissue. The red-filled vessels are blood vessels, and the clear vessel (to the right of a large blood vessel) is a lymph vessel. These blood and lymph vessels show good flow and regular branching patterns, typical of normal, healthy organs.
Angiogenic blood vessels
10. Angiogenic blood vessels
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This view shows a breast tumor growing in mouse breast tissue. The tumor appears green, because the cancer cells were labeled with a fluorescent dye, and the blood vessels appear black. These are new, angiogenic vessels, and their structure and blood flow look very irregular when compared to the regular patterns seen in normal, healthy tissue (as in the previous clip).

Note: video clips courtesy of Dr. Ann Chambers, University of Western Ontario


Dr. Folkman Speaks | Cancer Caught on Video
Designing Clinical Trials | Accidental Discoveries | How Cancer Grows
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