Pancreatic cancer stem cells spotted

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The study, by scientists at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Centre, could help in the development of new treatments for this deadly form of cancer, which has the worst survival rate of any major malignancy. Only about three percent of pancreatic cancer patients survive five years after their diagnosis.

"Over the last one to two decades, we have not had a significant improvement in the long-term survival rates with pancreatic cancer. I believe that if we can target cancer stem cells within pancreatic cancer, we may have an avenue to really make a breakthrough in therapy for this awful disease," study lead author Dr Diane Simeone, director of the Gastrointestinal Oncology Program at the centre, said in a prepared statement.

Driving tumour growth
Cancer stem cells, which account for only a small percentage of cancer cells, drive tumour growth. Current cancer treatments sometimes fail because they don't kill cancer stem cells. Being able to identify cancer stem cells can help scientists develop drugs to target and destroy these cells.

In this study, tissue samples from 10 pancreatic cancer patients were implanted into mice to grow new tumours. The researchers then examined certain markers on the surface of the tumour cells and identified a small number of cells that were able to rapidly produce new tumours. These are likely pancreatic cancer stem cells.

The findings are published in the February 1 issue of the journal Cancer Research.

Stem cells have been identified in several other kinds of cancers, including brain, breast, central nervous system, colon, and leukaemia. – (HealthDayNews)

Read more:
Cancer Centre
A-Z of Pancreatic cancer

February 2007

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