Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Genetic tracking identifies cancer stem cells in human patients

Date:
May 15, 2014
Source:
University of Oxford
Summary:
The gene mutations driving cancer have been tracked for the first time in patients back to a distinct set of cells at the root of cancer -- cancer stem cells. The international research team studied a group of patients with myelodysplastic syndromes -- a malignant blood condition which frequently develops into acute myeloid leukemia. The researchers say their findings offer conclusive evidence for the existence of cancer stem cells.

The gene mutations driving cancer have been tracked for the first time in patients back to a distinct set of cells at the root of cancer -- cancer stem cells.

The international research team, led by scientists at the University of Oxford and the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, studied a group of patients with myelodysplastic syndromes -- a malignant blood condition which frequently develops into acute myeloid leukaemia.

The researchers say their findings, reported in the journal Cancer Cell, offer conclusive evidence for the existence of cancer stem cells.

The concept of cancer stem cells has been a compelling but controversial idea for many years. It suggests that at the root of any cancer there is a small subset of cancer cells that are solely responsible for driving the growth and evolution of a patient's cancer. These cancer stem cells replenish themselves and produce the other types of cancer cells, as normal stem cells produce other normal tissues.

The concept is important, because it suggests that only by developing treatments that get rid of the cancer stem cells will you be able to eradicate the cancer. Likewise, if you could selectively eliminate these cancer stem cells, the other remaining cancer cells would not be able to sustain the cancer.

'It's like having dandelions in your lawn. You can pull out as many as you want, but if you don't get the roots they'll come back,' explains first author Dr Petter Woll of the MRC Weatherall Institute for Molecular Medicine at the University of Oxford.

The researchers, led by Professor Sten Eirik W Jacobsen at the MRC Molecular Haematology Unit and the Weatherall Institute for Molecular Medicine at the University of Oxford, investigated malignant cells in the bone marrow of patients with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and followed them over time.

Using genetic tools to establish in which cells cancer-driving mutations originated and then propagated into other cancer cells, they demonstrated that a distinct and rare subset of MDS cells showed all the hallmarks of cancer stem cells, and that no other malignant MDS cells were able to propagate the tumour.

The MDS stem cells were rare, sat at the top of a hierarchy of MDS cells, could sustain themselves, replenish the other MDS cells, and were the origin of all stable DNA changes and mutations that drove the progression of the disease.

'This is conclusive evidence for the existence of cancer stem cells in myelodysplastic syndromes,' says Dr Woll. 'We have identified a subset of cancer cells, shown that these rare cells are invariably the cells in which the cancer originates, and also are the only cancer-propagating cells in the patients. It is a vitally important step because it suggests that if you want to cure patients, you would need to target and remove these cells at the root of the cancer -- but that would be sufficient, that would do it.'

The existence of cancer stem cells has already been reported in a number of human cancers, explains Professor Jacobsen, but previous findings have remained controversial since the lab tests used to establish the identity of cancer stem cells have been shown to be unreliable and, in any case, do not reflect the "real situation" in an intact tumour in a patient.

'In our studies we avoided the problem of unreliable lab tests by tracking the origin and development of cancer-driving mutations in MDS patients,' says Professor Jacobsen, who also holds a guest professorship at the Karolinska Institutet.

Dr Woll adds: 'We can't offer patients today new treatments with this knowledge. What it does is give us a target for development of more efficient and cancer stem cell specific therapies to eliminate the cancer.

'We need to understand more about what makes these cancer stem cells unique, what makes them different to all the other cancer cells. If we can find biological pathways that are specifically dysregulated in cancer stem cells, we might be able to target them with new drugs.'

Dr Woll cautions: 'It is important to emphasize that our studies only investigated cancer stem cells in MDS, and that the identity, number and function of stem cells in other cancers are likely to differ from that of MDS.'


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Petter S. Woll, Una Kjällquist, Onima Chowdhury, Helen Doolittle, David C. Wedge, Supat Thongjuea, Rikard Erlandsson, Mtakai Ngara, Kristina Anderson, Qiaolin Deng, Adam J. Mead, Laura Stenson, Alice Giustacchini, Sara Duarte, Eleni Giannoulatou, Stephen Taylor, Mohsen Karimi, Christian Scharenberg, Teresa Mortera-Blanco, Iain C. Macaulay, Sally-Ann Clark, Ingunn Dybedal, Dag Josefsen, Pierre Fenaux, Peter Hokland, Mette S. Holm, Mario Cazzola, Luca Malcovati, Sudhir Tauro, David Bowen, Jacqueline Boultwood, Andrea Pellagatti, John E. Pimanda, Ashwin Unnikrishnan, Paresh Vyas, Gudrun Göhring, Brigitte Schlegelberger, Magnus Tobiasson, Gunnar Kvalheim, Stefan N. Constantinescu, Claus Nerlov, Lars Nilsson, Peter J. Campbell, Rickard Sandberg, Elli Papaemmanuil, Eva Hellström-Lindberg, Sten Linnarsson, Sten Eirik W. Jacobsen. Myelodysplastic Syndromes Are Propagated by Rare and Distinct Human Cancer Stem Cells In Vivo. Cancer Cell, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.ccr.2014.03.036

Cite This Page:

University of Oxford. "Genetic tracking identifies cancer stem cells in human patients." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140515123303.htm>.
University of Oxford. (2014, May 15). Genetic tracking identifies cancer stem cells in human patients. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140515123303.htm
University of Oxford. "Genetic tracking identifies cancer stem cells in human patients." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140515123303.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

House Republicans Vote to Sue Obama Over Healthcare Law

House Republicans Vote to Sue Obama Over Healthcare Law

Reuters - US Online Video (July 31, 2014) — The Republican-led House of Representatives votes to sue President Obama, accusing him of overstepping his executive authority in making changes to the Affordable Care Act. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Despite Health Questions, E-Cigs Are Beneficial: Study

Despite Health Questions, E-Cigs Are Beneficial: Study

Newsy (July 31, 2014) — Citing 81 previous studies, new research out of London suggests the benefits of smoking e-cigarettes instead of regular ones outweighs the risks. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

AP (July 31, 2014) — Sarasota County, Florida health officials have issued a warning against eating raw oysters and exposing open wounds to coastal and inland waters after a dangerous bacteria killed one person and made another sick. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 30, 2014) — Obamacare-related costs were said to be behind the profit plunge at Wellpoint and Humana, but Wellpoint sees the new exchanges boosting its earnings for the full year. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
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