Cancer stem cells similar to normal stem cells can thwart anti-cancer agents

June 15, 2007

Current cancer therapies often succeed at initially eliminating the bulk of the disease, including all rapidly proliferating cells, but are eventually thwarted because they cannot eliminate a small reservoir of multiple-drug-resistant tumor cells, called cancer stem cells, which ultimately become the source of disease recurrence and eventual metastasis.

Now, research by scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine suggests that for chemotherapy to be truly effective in treating lung cancers, for example, it must be able to target a small subset of cancer stem cells, which they have shown share the same protective mechanisms as normal lung stem cells. They are presenting this ground-breaking research at the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society (TERMIS) North American Chapter meeting being held June 13 to 16 at the Westin Harbor Castle conference center in Toronto.

The University of Pittsburgh researchers, led by Vera Donnenberg, Ph.D., assistant professor of surgery and pharmaceutical sciences, University of Pittsburgh Schools of Medicine and Pharmacy, used cell surface markers and dyes to identify cancer stem cells as well as normal adult stem cells and their progeny in samples obtained from normal lung and lung cancer tissue samples. The researchers identified a very small, rare set of resting cancer stem cells in the lung cancer samples that looked and behaved much like normal adult lung tissue stem cells. Both the cancer and normal stem cells were protected equally by multiple drug resistance transporters, even if the bulk of the tumor responded to chemotherapy.

According to Dr. Donnenberg, the very fact that cancers can and do relapse after apparently successful therapy indicates the survival of a drug-resistant, tumor-initiating population of cells in many types of refractory cancers. “Because of the similarities between the way that normal stem cells and cancer stem cells protect themselves, cancer therapies have to be designed specifically to target cancer stem cells while sparing normal stem cells,” she explained.

Source: University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Explore further: How a single molecule turns one immune cell into another

Related Stories

How a single molecule turns one immune cell into another

July 30, 2015

All it takes is one molecule to reprogram an antibody-producing B cell into a scavenging macrophage. This transformation is possible, new evidence shows, because the molecule (C/EBPa, a transcription factor) "short-circuits" ...

New cell division mechanism discovered

July 13, 2015

Canadian and British researchers have discovered that chromosomes play an active role in animal cell division. This occurs at a precise stage - cytokinesis - when the cell splits into two new daughter cells. It was observed ...

Recommended for you

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...

Quantum Theory May Explain Wishful Thinking

April 14, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Humans don’t always make the most rational decisions. As studies have shown, even when logic and reasoning point in one direction, sometimes we chose the opposite route, motivated by personal bias or simply ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.