Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Secrets Of Cellular Signaling Shed Light On New Cancer Stem Cell Therapies

Date:
April 12, 2008
Source:
University of Michigan
Summary:
By revealing the inner workings of a common cell-to-cell signaling system, biologists have uncovered new clues about mysterious and contentious creatures called cancer stem cells.

By revealing the inner workings of a common cell-to-cell signaling system, University of Michigan biologists have uncovered new clues about mysterious and contentious creatures called cancer stem cells. The findings also have implications for a high-profile breast-cancer drug trial getting underway at the U-M Medical School and two other institutions.

In the groundbreaking trial, researchers are combining chemotherapy with a drug that blocks the Notch signaling pathway, which helps regulate fetal development and is active in most organ systems throughout a person's life.

The aim is to use so-called Notch inhibitors to attack cancer stem cells, the small fraction of stem cells inside a tumor that help it survive and that fuel its growth.

But a big concern is that the Notch inhibitors, while helping to destroy cancer stem cells, might also kill or harm the normal, healthy stem cells critical to a patient's survival -- such as blood-forming stem cells in the bone marrow.

New results from the U-M's Dr. Ivan Maillard and his colleagues may allay some of those fears. The researchers showed that blood-forming stem cells in mice survive just fine when the Notch signaling pathway is experimentally blocked.

"Our data indicate that normal blood-forming stem cells should not be damaged by the Notch inhibitor drug being used in these patients," said Maillard, a hematologist and a Life Sciences Institute researcher.

"That's important, since these patients typically need good blood stem cells to maintain their blood counts and recover from the effects of chemotherapy," he said.

The Notch findings will be published Thursday in the journal Cell Stem Cell. Maillard's team includes researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research, and Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Max Wicha, director of the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center, said Maillard's results are welcome news for cancer stem cell researchers, and for the 30-patient metastatic breast-cancer drug trial that launched last month at his center, at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

"It's really important, because a lot of what we're thinking about now, therapeutically, is trying to find ways to attack these cancer stem cells, because we think that's really what drives the malignancies," said Wicha, who was not involved in the Notch study.

"Ivan's paper, combined with our own work, shows that there may be differences between normal stem cells and cancer stem cells, and perhaps those differences can be exploited therapeutically," Wicha said.

The cancer stem cell theory is controversial. Some researchers are not convinced that cancer stem cells exist.

The current two-stage drug trial uses a Notch inhibitor originally developed by Merck for Alzheimer's patients in the late 1990s, followed by chemotherapy. The intent is to use the Notch inhibitor to make cancer stem cells sensitive to the chemotherapy---a one-two punch to knock out tumors.

If the treatment is effective, the results could help sway some cancer-stem-cell skeptics.

The Notch pathway sends signals from a cell's surface membrane into its nucleus. Those signals activate genes that instruct the cell to make proteins that perform various tasks.

In the lab, Maillard and his colleagues were able to prevent Notch signals from activating mouse target genes using two independent techniques.

Many scientists have long assumed that blood-forming stem cells need Notch signals to function properly. But Maillard's team found that the signals are not required for the maintenance of blood-forming stem cells in adult mice.

In addition to his position as a research assistant professor at the Life Sciences Institute's Center for Stem Cell Biology, Maillard is an assistant professor of internal medicine and an assistant professor of cell and developmental biology at the U-M Medical School.

Funding for the Notch study was provided by grants from the National Institutes of Health, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the Swiss National Science Foundation, and the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Michigan. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Michigan. "Secrets Of Cellular Signaling Shed Light On New Cancer Stem Cell Therapies." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 April 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080409120616.htm>.
University of Michigan. (2008, April 12). Secrets Of Cellular Signaling Shed Light On New Cancer Stem Cell Therapies. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080409120616.htm
University of Michigan. "Secrets Of Cellular Signaling Shed Light On New Cancer Stem Cell Therapies." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080409120616.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

AP (July 28, 2014) West African nations and international health organizations are working to contain the largest Ebola outbreak in history. It's one of the deadliest diseases known to man, but the CDC says it's unlikely to spread in the U.S. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
$15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached

$15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached

AP (July 28, 2014) A bipartisan deal to improve veterans health care would authorize at least $15 billion in emergency spending to fix a veterans program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Two Americans Contract Ebola in Liberia

Two Americans Contract Ebola in Liberia

Reuters - US Online Video (July 28, 2014) Two American aid workers in Liberia test positive for Ebola while working to combat the deadliest outbreak of the virus ever. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins