Cancer forming from Stem Cells?
For many years, scientists were at bay as to why cancer returned in some patients after it had been removed completely down to the last cancerous cell. They had limited understanding on how this happened and how they could control it in order to prevent it from happening.
Recently, experiments conducted by three different groups of scientists found evidence of cancer having its own stem cells that play a vital role in the tumor’s regrowth. The experiments were conducted on three different types of cancers in different areas using variable techniques but all three proved the possibility of a cancer stem cell.
Stem cells are involved in the healthy growth of body tissues. Cancer stem cells, as the name indicates, cause regrowth of cancerous cells after treatment. The University Of Texas Southwestern Medical Center undertook the research regarding a lethal common brain tumor known as glioblastoma. The researchers initially genetically engineered mice that would develop this tumor. They then developed a transgene that would only be activated by stem cells and no other cells. To this transgene they added green fluorescent color making it easier to detect and follow.
Later, they added a virus in the transgene that would enable it to destroy itself when treated with drug acyclovir.
Subsequently, when the scientists put this transgene into the genetically engineered mice, they saw subgroups of malignant brain tumor which were colored green. Keeping in note that the transgene was to be activated in stem cells only, scientists were left baffled to know that stem cells indeed had led to the formation of green tumor cells. For further confirmation, when acyclovir was added, the proliferation stopped and only uncolored cells continued their growth.
Finally, the last leg of the experiment was to chemotherapeutically destroy cancerous cells and see if they regenerate themselves. They did. However, when the stem cells were removed using drugs, cancer did not make an appearance.
Research done by scientists at University Medical Center Utrecht also found similar results in mice having intestinal cancer.
A Cancer Free Populous For The Future?
The scientists claim that they have a long way to go, but with results like these, they now know that to completely eradicate cancers, they have to target the foundation i.e. the stem cells that are fueling their growth. The task before them is not simple. Each cancer is different and has to be studied separately.
Moreover, studies done on mice have variable results on human beings. Nevertheless, this research has been very significant and allows us to begin clinical trials letting people have a complete recovery from cancer.