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October 3, 2007

Stem Cells Can Prompt Metastasis In Cancer

Topics: Medicine

_44154741_breast_cancer_cells203.jpgMesenchymal stem cells or MSCs are multipotent stem cells that can differentiate into a variety of cell types. Cell types that MSCs have been shown to differentiate into in vitro or in vivo include osteoblasts, chondrocytes, myocytes, adipocytes, and as described lately, into beta-pancreatic islets cells. They can also transdifferentiate into neuronal cells, and have been linked with both the spread and inhibition of cancer. Now, U.S. researchers report that dangerous changes in cancer cells which allow them to spread around the body could be triggered by the mesenchymal stem cells:

A Whitehead Institute team found human breast cancers in mice are more likely to spread if mixed with stem cells from the bone marrow.

They believe these changes could be blocked or reversed - making the cancer less deadly.

UK experts said the Nature study could point to future treatments.

When an original cancer spreads to form new tumours in other parts of the body such as the lung or liver, this is called metastasis, and often means that the patient is far less likely to be cured of the disease.

Doctors hope that by understanding how and why a tumour suddenly changes its behaviour, a treatment could be found to stop this happening, and keep the cancer fixed in one part of the body.

The latest research has linked the arrival of a particular type of "stem cell" to metatasis in breast cancer cells.

Mesenchymal stem cells are found in the bone marrow, and are a "master cell" used by the body to help generate new bone, fat, cartilage and muscle.

They were already a suspect in cancer spread after it was noticed that they naturally migrate in large numbers to tumour sites.

When the scientists mixed human breast cancer tumours in mice with these cells, there was seven times more cancer spread to the lungs compared with breast cancer tumours left to their own devices.

They are suggesting that the presence of the stem cells produces genetic changes in the cancer cells that make them metastasize - but once the cells spread, they change back to their original genetic state.

Continue reading: Stem cells 'prompt cancer spread'

Related reading: MSCs also serve useful purposes in fighting cancer - such as being a vehicle of gene therapy for targeting multiple lung metastatic tumors.

Cross posted from New Hope Blog

Posted by Richard at October 3, 2007 2:49 PM

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