Disarming Specialized Stem Cells Might Combat Deadly Ovarian Cancer

Jan 27, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Eliminating cancer stem cells (CSCs) within a tumor could hold the key to successful treatments for ovarian cancer, which has been notoriously difficult to detect and treat, according to new findings published this week in the journal Oncogene by Yale School of Medicine researchers.

“We found that stopping the expression of two genes—Lin28 and Oct4—reduces ovarian cancer cell growth and survival,” said Yingqun Huang, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at Yale School of Medicine.

Ovarian cancer has been challenging to treat because it tends to recur frequently and develop resistance to treatment. The poor outcome for women with ovarian cancer has been associated with subtle and nonspecific symptoms—earning it the moniker the “disease that whispers.”

“This recurrence and drug resistance may be due to the presence of CSCs within the tumors that have the capacity to reproduce and to differentiate into non-CSC cells that repopulate the tumor mass,” said Huang, who is a member of Yale Stem Cell Center and Yale Cancer Center. “Eliminating these CSCs may be key to successful treatments.”

While in the process of studying the functions of stem cell proteins in human embryonic , Huang and her colleagues unexpectedly discovered that a sub-population of ovarian cancer cells express stem cell proteins Lin28 and Oct4. They also found that the two proteins appear to act together in ovarian cancer tissue cells to produce more advanced tumors. Inhibiting their combined expression led to a significant decrease in the growth and survival of cancer cells. A larger-scale ovarian cancer study is currently underway to confirm the significance of the findings.

“We hope we will soon be able to apply this new information to improve outcomes, perhaps by developing better diagnostic markers and treatment strategies that may be useful in customizing treatment for patients,” said Huang.

The study was supported by Connecticut Innovations, the Fannie E. Rippel Foundation and the National Cancer Institute.

Explore further: Team identifies source of most cases of invasive bladder cancer

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Ovarian cancer stem cells identified, characterized

Apr 17, 2008

Researchers at Yale School of Medicine have identified, characterized and cloned ovarian cancer stem cells and have shown that these stem cells may be the source of ovarian cancer’s recurrence and its resistance to chemotherapy.

Vascular marker of ovarian cancer identified

Sep 23, 2008

Researchers have identified TEM1 as a specific genetic marker for the vascular cells associated with tumor growth, a finding that could aid in diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer.

Stem cell protein offers a new cancer target

Jun 01, 2009

A protein abundant in embryonic stem cells is now shown to be important in cancer, and offers a possible new target for drug development, report researchers from the Stem Cell Program at Children's Hospital Boston.

'Clumping' protein linked to return of ovarian cancer

Dec 15, 2006

Johns Hopkins scientists have discovered that women treated for ovarian cancer are at increased risk of a rapid and potentially fatal recurrence if their tumor cells have high levels of a binding protein that triggers abnormal ...

Recommended for you

Cancer stem cells linked to drug resistance

19 hours ago

Most drugs used to treat lung, breast and pancreatic cancers also promote drug-resistance and ultimately spur tumor growth. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have discovered ...

Unraveling the 'black ribbon' around lung cancer

Apr 17, 2014

It's not uncommon these days to find a colored ribbon representing a disease. A pink ribbon is well known to signify breast cancer. But what color ribbon does one think of with lung cancer?

User comments : 0

More news stories

Atom probe assisted dating of oldest piece of earth

(Phys.org) —It's a scientific axiom: big claims require extra-solid evidence. So there were skeptics in 2001 when University of Wisconsin-Madison geoscience professor John Valley dated an ancient crystal ...

ISEE-3 comes to visit Earth

(Phys.org) —It launched in 1978. It was the first satellite to study the constant flow of solar wind streaming toward Earth from a stable orbit point between our planet and the sun known as the Lagrangian ...