July 20, 2008 Researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College have identified a type of cancer stem cell that might initiate metastatic cancer, which spreads beyond the original, primary tumor site and to other locations within the body.
For the first time, scientists have revealed that the molecular profiles of these cancer stem cells are much different than those located in primary tumors.
The study's senior author Dr. Shahin Rafii — the Arthur B. Belfer Professor in Genetic Medicine and director of the Ansary Center for Stem Cell Therapeutics at Weill Cornell and a noted investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute — believes that these findings pave the way for research into a new subset of metastatic cancer stem cells, previously unidentified.
It has long been thought that a protein called CD133 is produced by all cancer stem cells, which are responsible for the creation and maintenance of tumors. But now, the research team found that certain metastatic stem cells (CD133-negative) do not produce this well-known protein.
The scientists studied colon cancer cells within a mouse model to make their observations. Moving forward, the findings may spur research to identify new biomarkers, specific to metastatic cancer stem cells, which may lead to the development of drugs that target metastatic cancer.
The study's results were released as a special "highlighted" article in a recent issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
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