SPANISH scientists have made a potentially crucial breakthrough in the fight against cancer, after claiming to have identified the disease’s ‘Achilles heel’.

So-called ‘ghost’ cells, believed to be responsible for making cancer tumours resistant to chemotherapy, were discovered by researchers investigating the causes of prostate cancer.

It is hoped the findings, published in the Cancer Cell journal, will help provide more accurate predictions about the behaviour of the disease, leading to more effective treatment.

The rogue cells, which behave in a similar manner to embryonic stem cells, allow tumours to change their form and develop resistance when exposed to chemotherapy.

Cancer patients with a higher percentage of these cells have a higher likelihood of suffering a relapse.

“These cells are remarkably resistant and are present in all tissues, so if they are not removed they can reduce the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatment,” said researcher Carlos Cordon Cardo, who is based in New York.

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