ANN ARBOR, Mich. Researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center have found that a type of normal stem cell fuels ovarian cancer by encouraging cancer stem cells to grow.
Cancer stem cells are the small number of cells in a tumor that drive its growth and spread. Traditional cancer treatments do not kill these cells, which is why cancer treatments often fail.
In a study published online in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, researchers looked in ovarian tissue at the mesenchymal stem cells, which are normal cells found throughout the body. These cells can form different specialized cells such as fat, bone or cartilage.
Mesenchymal stem cells are known to be helpful with wound healing, which has many scientists conjecturing that they may help combat cancer. In this study, the researchers observed that mesenchymal stem cells in ovarian tumors were different than mesenchymal stem cells from healthy ovaries. And in fact, the mesenchymal stem cells in the ovarian tumors were fueling the cancer.
"Cancer is very good at tricking the mesenchymal stem cells into doing what the cancer likes. The cancer takes the cells hostage and uses them to promote the cancer's growth," says study author Ronald Buckanovich, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of internal medicine and of obstetrics and gynecology at the U-M Medical School.
The researchers used mouse models and human tissue samples of both normal ovaries and ovarian cancer, to look at what happened to the mesenchymal stem cells. They also noticed the cancer-associated mesenchymal stem cells increased tumor size, primarily by increasing the number of cancer stem cells.
At the same time, the researchers saw that a type of protein called BMP2 was prevalent in the cancer-associated mesenchymal stem cells. BMP2 is a so-called master regulatory protein, and is carefully regulated in normal cell function. The researchers found more than thre
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University of Michigan Health System