Saturday, August 11, 2012
Cancer stem cell discovery could signal 'paradigm shift'
Researchers have discovered the cells in tumours that seem to be responsible for the regrowth of tumours. Three separate studies on mice appear to have confirmed the view that the growth of tumours is driven by so-called cancer stem cells. The researchers claim to have resolved one of the biggest controversies in cancer research and say their work marks a "paradigm shift" in the field. The studies have been published in the journals, Nature and Science. Doctors often successfully reduce the size of tumours through various therapies, but often patients suffer a relapse and the tumour regrows. Some researchers believe that this happens because therapies fail to eradicate a small proportion of cells that drive tumour growth known as cancer stem cells. They believe that these are the cells that should be targeted to eliminate the tumour forever. Evidence for the existence of cancer stem cells has been weak. But now three separate groups of researchers working independently have found direct evidence of cancer stem cells driving tumour growth in brain, gut and skin cancers. The suggestion is that the same may be true of all cancers which produce solid tumours. According to Prof Cedric Blanpain of the Free University of Brussels, who led one of the studies, the results could pave the way for a new approach to treating many cancers. "If these cells are indeed the cells that fuel tumour growth then maybe you can target these cells," he told BBC News. But that may be easier said than done. The newly-identified cancer stem cells are very similar to healthy stem cells responsible for growing and renewing tissue in the body. Any therapy to target cancer stem cells may also destroy healthy tissues. A priority for researchers will be to see if there are important differences between normal and cancer stem cells so that therapies can distinguish between them.
posted by SCIENCE NEWS at 11:30 PM