Many of the colon cancer cells that form tumors can be killed by genetically short-circuiting the cells' ability to absorb a key nutrient, a new study has found. While the findings are encouraging, the test tube study using human colon cancer cells also illustrates the difficulty of defeating these cells, known as cancer stem cells (CSCs).
"It is becoming more evident that only a small number of cells in the tumor are capable of forming the tumor, namely the cancer stem cells," said one of the study's authors Adhip P.N. Majumdar of the VA Medical Center and Karmanos Cancer Institute, Wayne State University in Detroit. "So the new strategy is to eliminate the cancer stem cells and thus lower the recurrence of cancer."
Colorectal cancer remains the third deadliest cancer in the U.S. There are 147,000 new cases of colorectal cancer each year, and 49,920 deaths, according to the American Cancer Society. About half of all cancers, including colon cancer, reoccur within five years of treatment, Majumdar said.
Majumdar will present the study, "IFG-1R regulation of colon cancer stem cells," on Wednesday, April 28 at the Experimental Biology 2010 conference. The presentation is part of the cancer stem cell track sponsored by the American Society for Investigative Pathology. The conference takes place April 24-28 at the Anaheim Convention Center. Majumdar carried out the study with Yingie Yu and Bhaumik B. Patel, who are also with Wayne State University.
Unlike most cells in the body, which are programmed to die after dividing a number of times, normal adult stem cells have a remarkable ability to renew themselves by dividing almost without limit. In addition to this ability to replicate, they can also develop into many different types of cells, such as new heart muscle cells or intestinal cells. In the mature organism, stem cells play a critical role of renewal, replacing dead cells and repairing tissue.
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Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology