News / Health

Study Identifies Stem Cells as Cancer Source

Human embryonic stem cellsHuman embryonic stem cells
x
Human embryonic stem cells
Human embryonic stem cells
Jessica Berman
Scientists have found evidence that cancerous tumors might originate as stem cells - undifferentiated master cells which can grow into any tissue in the body.  Investigators say if this proves true, it could provide a new way to prevent or cure cancer. 

Stem cells are primitive structures in the human body that normally transform themselves into healthy, specialized tissue, everything from blood and bone cells to heart and liver cells.  Now there is evidence that stem cells can also develop into cancer cells that multiply into life-threatening tumors.

The conventional theory of cancer formation is that it begins with the division of a single mutated cell.  The new study challenges this theory with evidence that mutated, cancerous cells may develop directly from stem cells.   

Luis Parada, head of developmental biology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, and his colleagues studied an aggressive, lethal form of human brain cancer called glioblastoma multiforme in genetically bred mice.  The cancer is usually fatal within a year of diagnosis.  Researchers used chemotherapy on the rodents that temporarily halted the growth of their tumors.  But when investigators stopped the drug, the cancer came back.  Parada says a molecular analysis showed the tumors recurred because a small number of stem cells clustered within the brain tissue began dividing, producing new tumor cells.  

But when a group of mice with glioblastoma were given both chemotherapy and a drug that destroyed the stem cells in their brain tissue, their cancer was cured.

Parada says the findings could radically change the way cancer is treated.

“Then it’s no longer valid to evaluate the volume of a tumor and say whether therapy is working or not.  What will be important is to know is how that therapy is affecting the cancer stem cells within the tumor,” Parada said.

Two other independent studies published this week provide additional evidence that stem cells may be the starting point for cancerous tumors.   One team of researchers from Universite´ Libre de Bruxelles in  Brussels, Belgium, and the Wellcome Trust Cancer Research Institute in Britain looked at the role of the master cells in the development of squamous cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer.

Another group of investigators at the University Medical Center in Utrecht, the Netherlands, engineered a multi-colored model of an intestinal tumor known as an adenoma so they could trace the progression of stem cells to an early-stage tumor.  Researchers tagged the master cells with a red color and watched as they produced a protein that stimulated the growth of pre-cancerous blue cells.

Researcher Hugo Snippert, who created the adenoma model, says there can be many genetic mutations in cells that don’t cause cancer.  He says it’s only when the stem cells are mutated that cancer develops.

“It’s really essential that you get rid of the cancer stem cells because they are tiny, they are low numbers.  But they are able to grow and to give rise and fuel tumor growth really fast,” Snipert said.

University of Texas researcher Luis Parada believes stem cells develop random mutations with age.  And he says his lab is studying a potential cure for cancer that would focus on destroying these mutating stem cells as soon as they could be detected.

“And we are very optimistic that in so doing, we are on the verge of discovering viable targets that are unique to these cells,” Parada explained.

He says researchers are still mapping the locations of stem cell clusters in all human organ tissues where cancers are known to develop.
 
A series of articles on the role of mutated stem cells in the development of cancer are published jointly in the journals Nature and Science.

You May Like

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine May Be in Use by Jan.

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid