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: Factor found to balance medically useful stem cell qualities

Related Stories

The life story of stem cells

November 9, 2015

Stem cells ensure the regeneration and maintenance of the body's tissues. Diseases like cancer can arise if they spiral out of control. In collaboration with doctors from Aachen University Hospital, scientists from the Max ...

A Prkci gene keeps stem cells in check

October 31, 2015

When it comes to stem cells, too much of a good thing isn't wonderful: producing too many new stem cells may lead to cancer; producing too few inhibits the repair and maintenance of the body.

Microwave field imaging using diamond and vapor cells

November 10, 2015

Microwave field imaging is becoming increasingly important, as microwaves play an essential role in modern communications technology and can also be used in medical diagnostics. Researchers from the Swiss Nanoscience Institute ...

Human gene prevents regeneration in zebrafish

November 18, 2015

Regenerative medicine could one day allow physicians to correct congenital deformities, regrow damaged fingers, or even mend a broken heart. But to do it, they will have to reckon with the body's own anti-cancer security ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

( -- 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 ...


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.