Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

Cancer = Stem Cells Gone Wild!

This recent discovery actually makes a lot of sense: errant stem cells are often the cause of cancers and tumors, and therefore should be better targeted with chemotherapy. Stem cells are the precursors to all tissues, good and bad, and many cancers could be considered the result of stem cells’ division process gone awry. Suddenly, stem cells may be producing massive amount of cells with no particularly purpose, which don’t belong, and actually destory healthy normal cells. This is often the result of genetic mutations caused by chemicals, age, radiation, UV exposure, genetic predisposition, viruses, etc.

[Studies] has repeatedly shown that, contrary to conventional wisdom, only abnormal stem cells can sprout and sustain tumours by renewing themselves indefinitely. Without signals from cancer stem cells, ordinary tumour cells seem to stop growing. What’s more, some experiments have found these bad seeds to be highly resistant to standard cancer therapies, including radiation, medicine’s nuclear weapon.

This raises the question: are cancer therapies targeting the wrong cells? And is this why some cancers return following a bout of treatment and remission?

“Killing 98 per cent of tumour cells on a scan may look good, but that 2 per cent could be enough to grow the cancer back,” said Jeremy Rich, a neuro-oncologist and cancer researcher at Duke University in North Carolina.

Studies related to this are available via advanced online publication in the journal Nature:

A human colon cancer cell capable of initiating tumour growth in immunodeficient mice
Catherine A. O’Brien, Aaron Pollett, Steven Gallinger and John E. Dick

Identification and expansion of human colon-cancer-initiating cells
Lucia Ricci-Vitiani, Dario G. Lombardi, Emanuela Pilozzi, Mauro Biffoni, Matilde Todaro, Cesare Peschle and Ruggero De Maria

Hat tip Bob Abu


  1. #1 Nick Padron
    January 7, 2007

    The evidence that cancer stem cells are the root cause of cancer is mounting. Latest report has identified colon cancer stem cells. Previously, leukemia, brain cancer, prostate cancer, myeloma, breast cancer, and even lung cancer have shown to be stem cell diseases.
    Since cancer treatment has focused only on the cancer cell for the last 30 years, with minimal treatment response for cancer stem cells, this explains why cancers relapse. The cancer stem cells survive conventional treatments, and reproduce the cancer.
    Many researchers are now focusing their research on the cancer stem cell, but some still have not caught on to the cancer stem cell as the cause of cancers;this is unfortunate if their lack of focus on cancer stem cells delays treatment breakthroughs for curing cancer. There is even a research report from 1977 showing that only certain cells, the stem cells, cause the growth of cancer.
    When treatments are developed that attack and eliminate cancer stem cells, cures will occur, and then all researchers will have to be looking at cancer stem cells, or be left completely behind in the cancer research world.

New comments have been disabled.