Adult stem cells found to suppress cancer while dormant

December 20, 2013

Researchers at UCLA's Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research have discovered a mechanism by which certain adult stem cells suppress their ability to initiate skin cancer during their dormant phase—an understanding that could be exploited for better cancer-prevention strategies.

The study, which was led by UCLA postdoctoral fellow Andrew White and William Lowry, an associate professor of molecular, cell and developmental biology who holds the Maria Rowena Ross Term Chair in Cell Biology in the UCLA College of Letters and Science, was published online Dec. 15 in the journal Nature Cell Biology.

Hair follicle stem cells, the tissue-specific that generate the hair follicles, are also the cells of origin for cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, a common . These stem cells cycle between periods of activation (during which they can grow) and quiescence (when they remain dormant).

Using mouse models, White and Lowry applied known cancer-causing genes to hair follicle stem cells and found that during their dormant phase, the cells could not be made to initiate skin cancer. Once they were in their active period, however, they began growing cancer.

"We found that this via adult stem cell quiescence was mediated by PTEN, a gene important in regulating the cell's response to signaling pathways," White said. "Therefore, stem cell quiescence is a novel form of tumor suppression in hair follicle stem cells, and PTEN must be present for the suppression to work."

Understanding cancer suppression through quiescence could better inform preventative strategies for certain patients, such as organ transplant recipients, who are particularly susceptible to squamous cell carcinoma, and for those taking the drug vemurafenib for melanoma, another type of skin cancer. The study also may reveal parallels between and other cancers in which have a quiescent phase.

Explore further: Cell of origin for squamous cell carcinoma discovered

Related Stories

Cell of origin for squamous cell carcinoma discovered

April 19, 2011

Squamous cell cancers, which can occur in multiple organs in the body, can originate from hair follicle stem cells, a finding that could result in new strategies to treat and potentially prevent the disease, according to ...

Recommended for you

'Hog-nosed rat' discovered in Indonesia

October 6, 2015

Researchers working in Indonesia have discovered a new species of mammal called the hog-nosed rat, aptly named after its features, that scientists said they had never been seen before.

Ancestors of land plants were wired to make the leap to shore

October 5, 2015

When the algal ancestor of modern land plants first succeeded in making the transition from aquatic environments to an inhospitable shore 450 million years ago, it changed the world by dramatically altering climate and setting ...

Stress in adolescence prepares rats for future challenges

October 5, 2015

Rats exposed to frequent physical, social, and predatory stress during adolescence solved problems and foraged more efficiently under high-threat conditions in adulthood compared with rats that developed without stress, according ...


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.