Cancer stem cells in charge of tumour development

A team of scientists from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre in Dallas and led by Luis Parada have shown that there is a hierarchy of cancer cells within a solid tumour and at the top of the hierarchy are ’cancer stem cells’ that are ultimately responsible for causing the tumour to flourish. 

The existence of cancer stem cells has been a hot topic with some cancer experts rejecting the idea outright. Three independent groups have recently found direct evidence for cancer stem cells in solid tumours of the brain, skin and digestive system and all simultaneously published their findings in the journals Science and Nature.

Hugo Snippert, of Utrecht University in the Netherlands after proving that cancer stem cells existed in his studies on intestinal tumours growing in mice claimed that now the conventional idea of tumours is incorrect.

’Tumours are like caricatures of the tissues from which they were derived. They are composed of different cell types and there is a hierarchy between the types. Like normal tissues have healthy stem cells, tumours have cancer stem cells at the basis of their cellular turnover,’ he stated.

The stem cell theory of cancer was first suggested by embryologist Dr John Beard in 1906, with Professor Wang and his team from British Columbia showing it to be responsible for some stomach cancers in 2004. 

Parada’s research has also proven the case.

’Showing that cancer stem cells exist means that treatments should be focused on killing these cells rather than targeting the wider community of tumour cells’, said Parada, adding, ’In the past we’ve tried to get rid of the entire stew of cells within cancer tumours. But shrinking a tumour by 50 per cent is irrelevant. What you need to know is whether you’re targeting the stem cells that allow a tumour to regrow. The good news is that now we know what to go after.’

Readers might like to read about the work of Dr Nicholas Gonzalez who has been convinced of the stem cell theory of cancer for more than 20 years and has a clinic in New York. (CLICK HERE to go to article)

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