FINDINGS: Certain differentiated cells in breast tissue can spontaneously convert to a stem-cell-like state, according to Whitehead Institute researchers. Until now, scientific dogma has stated that differentiation is a one-way path; once cells specialize, they cannot return to the flexible stem-cell state on their own. These findings hold true for normal mammary cells as well as for breast cancer cells.
RELEVANCE: These findings may redefine how researchers view cancer stem cells the cells capable of seeding new tumors at primary and distant sites in the body. Therapies that specifically target cancer stem cells are currently being investigated in the belief that eliminating cancer stem cells could prevent tumor recurrence and metastasis. However, if cancerous, more differentiated cells can switch between the differentiated and stem-cell states, the more differentiated cancer cells might provide an endless source of new cancer stem cells. In the longer term, the observed behavior may also hold promise for degenerative disease therapy by allowing the derivation of patient specific adult stem cells without genetically altering such cells.
Scientists identify a surprising new source of cancer stem cells
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (April 11, 2011) Whitehead Institute researchers have discovered that a differentiated cell type found in breast tissue can spontaneously convert to a stem-cell-like state, the first time such behavior has been observed in mammalian cells. These results refute scientific dogma, which states that differentiation is a one-way path; once cells specialize, they cannot return to the flexible stem-cell state on their own.
This surprising finding, published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), may have implications for the development of cancer therapeutics, particularly those aimed at eradicating cancer stem cells.
"It may be that if one eliminates the can
|Contact: Nicole Giese|
Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research