Monday, November 20, 2006

An Unwanted Journey: Day 0362 - Stem Cell Hope

A Canadian research scientist, John Dick, from the University Health Network in Toronto, has recently demonstrated that a very small percentage of colon cancer cells are responsible for growing cancerous tumours. Previous research had shown that the cell marker CD133+ was expressed on cancer stem cells for brain and prostrate cancer. More recent studies have shown the same for colon cancer.

Evidently these stem cells represent about one in 50,000 tumour cells and one in 262 CD133+ cells. What this means is that current therapies for colon cancer are sometimes ineffective because they do not target directly the cells responsible for the spread of colon cancer. As most people know, colorectal cancer is the 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths in North America. Colorectal cancer recurrence is especially common. But if this research is indicative of new directions in therapy, the heirarchy of colorectal cancer cells in incredibly important in developing those therapies.

Colon cancer initiating cells (CC-IC) may well be found in only an incredibly small percentage of the tumour's overall mass of cells. Two to three percent of the total cell mass may well be responsible for making the cancer metastasize. These cells also demonstrate resistance to radiation and promote vascularization of the tumours.

Both Dick and researchers in Italy will be working on research to determine whether these cells mutate from normal colon cells or are part of a developmental regression of differentiated cells.

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