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

Jun 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: Invisible blood in urine may indicate bladder cancer

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New tool aids stem cell engineering for medical research

Aug 28, 2014

A Mayo Clinic researcher and his collaborators have developed an online analytic tool that will speed up and enhance the process of re-engineering cells for biomedical investigation. CellNet is a free-use Internet platform ...

Venom gets good buzz as potential cancer-fighter

Aug 11, 2014

Bee, snake or scorpion venom could form the basis of a new generation of cancer-fighting drugs, scientists will report here today. They have devised a method for targeting venom proteins specifically to malignant cells while ...

Histones and the mystery of cell proliferation

Aug 19, 2014

Before cells divide, they create so much genetic material that it must be wound onto spools before the two new cells can split apart. These spools are actually proteins called histones, and they must multiply ...

Biology made simpler with "clear" tissues

Aug 04, 2014

(Phys.org) —In general, our knowledge of biology—and much of science in general—is limited by our ability to actually see things. Researchers who study developmental problems and disease, in particular, ...

Recommended for you

Discovery could lead to new cancer treatment

Aug 29, 2014

A team of scientists from the University of Colorado School of Medicine has reported the breakthrough discovery of a process to expand production of stem cells used to treat cancer patients. These findings could have implications ...

Is the HPV vaccine necessary?

Aug 29, 2014

As the school year starts in full swing many parents wonder if their child should receive the HPV vaccine, which is recommended for girls ages 11-26 and boys 11-21. There are a lot of questions and controversy around this ...

User comments : 0