York University isolate prostate cancer stem cells and question existing thinking

Scientists at the University of York have revealed the existence of a cancer-inducing DNA re-alignment in stem cells taken from human prostate cancers. Professor Norman Maitland said, “This discovery marks a fundamental shift in our understanding of how solid cancers start. This opens the way to the development of drugs that target the stem cells, leading to more effective therapies that work against the root cause of the disease”

Professor Norman Maitland and his team in the University’s Department of Biology were the first to isolate prostate cancer stem cells in 2005. While other cancer cells can be killed by current therapies, stem cells are able to evade their effects, resulting in cancer recurrence. The team has since been exploring the exact molecular properties that allow these cells to spread, survive and resist aggressive treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy. Professor Maitland added, “This discovery marks a fundamental shift in our understanding of how solid cancers start. It is believed that ‘root’ cancer cells arise from healthy stem cells going wrong – for example certain controls can be turned off which allow the cells to keep growing and invade surrounding tissue. In blood cancers such as leukaemia, DNA is rearranged during an event known as chromosomal translocation, which results in a mutant protein that drives cancer progression. Although similar rearrangements have recently been discovered in solid cancers, until now, they have not been considered as stem cell functions. Our work has challenged this idea.” (University of York online news; June 2013)


Nov - Dec 2013 Cancer Watch
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