Anaplasia means the cells that have shed the characteristics that identify them as a certain kind of tissue. The expression literally indicates “to build backwards”, since normal cells get more specialised with each division, not less. Anaplasia happens if a cell “reverts” to a state more akin to stem cells, which is often deformed. The cell does not always function as part of the surrounding tissue, as is typical of cancer cells. Whenever a cell undergoes mitosis, anaplastic cells are produced. This results in the formation of a cancerous tumour.
When a cell reaches a neighbour, it stops growing. Normal cells interact with one another to give tissues their right structure. Absent such interaction, every cell in an anaplastic tumour would develop into a far bigger size than a healthy cell, with only occasional connections to the surrounding cells. Lacking the ability to form connections with surrounding cells, malignant tumours may metastasize, or travel to other parts of the body through the bloodstream.
This may soon escalate into a deadly condition, as the newly colonised tumours begin to grow rapidly. If the tumour finds a new home in a critical part of your body, such as your brain, it may soon kill you. Anaplasia, or a lack of differentiation, is often used to determine if a tumour is cancerous or healthy.
Accelerated mitosis in tumours that have not yet undergone tissue differentiation is mostly healthy. When cells are still tightly connected to the cells surrounding them, it is far more difficult for them to spread. In the instance of a benign tumour, the cells are simply reproducing too quickly, resulting in the formation of a mass. Often, they may be removed surgically with little danger of spreading. After surgery, dangerous tumours having anaplasia are almost always treated with radiotherapy and chemotherapy to eliminate any microscopic tumours that have migrated to other parts of the body.
Symptoms of anaplasia in cells or groups of cells are often identical. They grow considerably bigger than the surrounding cells and begin to divide in uneven, often strange, ways. Unusual events during mitosis lead to the size and shape of the cells being asymmetrical rather than an equal divide of cell contents. In a typical cell, the nucleus becomes substantially bigger in proportion to the growth of the cytoplasm.
Multiple nuclei are seen in certain anaplastic cells. The bound-up DNA, or chromatin, within the nucleus takes on a course look. Anaplasia causes cells to lose their function, making them resemble stem cells. For instance, every mucus secretion cell will no longer secrete mucus and will just survive to perform mitosis.
Examples of Anaplasia
Leiomyosarcoma vs. Leiomyoma
Anaplasia may have a huge impact on your life. Cancers with anaplasia have a very variable character, making chemotherapy and radiation treatment difficult. This may be detected in the malignancies leiomyosarcoma (a malignant smooth muscle tumour) and leiomyoma (a benign smooth muscle tumour). The sole distinction between the two tumours is the malignant form’s presence of anaplasia.
Cancerous cells that lack differentiation do weird things like quickly proliferating and afterwards remaining inactive for a brief period. What leads a cell to develop anaplastic remains unclear. Malignant tumours need not exhibit anaplasia to be malignant. Anaplasia may transform a benign tumour into a malignant one, as shown in these two malignancies.
Adenoma to Adenocarcinoma
The following illustration demonstrates how anaplasia may cause a cancer to become malignant. A change in the cells of certain adenomas (benign glandular tumours) might lead them to become less differentiated or display anaplasia. These benign cells might turn into malignant adenocarcinomas in this situation. Most of the time, they don’t.
It’s crucial to remember that an adenoma might have many different outcomes. The vast majority will remain benign. Other mutations, on the other hand, may generate an adenocarcinoma without a benign tumour growing first. Just because one may originate from the other doesn’t mean it’s the only way a malignant tumour can form.
Related Biology Terms
Metastasize: Cancerous cells may populate a new tumour when they break free from the tumour they came from, pass throughout the body via the bloodstream, and reach a new location.
Differentiate: A cell’s capacity to specialise in function in order to fulfil a limited range of activities for the body.
Carcinoma: Each and every carcinoma that develops on the epithelial surface of the human body, including the skin and any internal ducts, tracts, and organs.
Sarcoma: is a kind of cancer that develops in connective tissues, including smooth muscle, bone, and cartilage.
Question and Answer
1. Hello, Doctor. A new type of cancer has been found in one of your patients. It appears that the tumor shows signs of anaplasia; how should we proceed?
- Cut it out.
- Sugar pills. See if the placebo effect works.
- After surgery, give chemo and radiation.
- None of the above.
C is correct. Anaplasia in a tumor can mean that the cells are not communicating and attaching to each other like they are supposed to. This can lead to metastasis, which could be very dangerous. Most malignant cancers must be treated with chemotherapy and radiation to kill the remaining cancer cells. Chemotherapy and radiation work by targeting cells which are actively dividing, in the hope that the cancer is still actively dividing. However, some cancers can lay dormant, and won’t be dividing during the treatment. Those cancers will not be affected, and may become active again in the future.
2. You’re looking at a tissue sample from a patient who has a tumor. You are trying to determine whether it is malignant or benign. The cells appear to still be specialized, and the nuclei are intact, but they are reproducing at a higher rate than normal tissue of that type. What conclusion do you draw?
- The cells are probably malignant.
- The cells are probably benign.
- The cells are just better at mitosis than normal cells.
- None of the above.
B is correct. The cells, while cancerous, have a low likelihood of metastasizing if they are still functioning and communicating with the cells around them. With the nuclei still the same size and intact, no anaplasia appears to be happening. While there is still a chance that these cells are malignant if they reproduce too quickly or start to obstruct pathways, it is likely these cells are benign and can be removed in surgery.
3. You are looking at a sample of tissue from a patient’s skin. In the sample, there are cancerous cells that appear to display the symptoms of anaplasia. However, the cells displaying anaplasia appear to be muscle cells. These muscle cells must have metastasized from a tumor in the smooth muscle. What do you call this cancer?
- None of the above.
A is correct. Because the cells originated in the smooth muscle, or connective tissue, the cancer is a sarcoma. Had the cancerous cells come from the skin, the cancer would be a carcinoma, even if the tumor was found in the muscle. In this way, it is more important where the cancer came from than where it is now. However, because the sarcoma is found in the skin, we know that the cancer has metastasized, and to treat it we must use aggressive chemotherapy and radiation.