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Stem cells make bone marrow cancer resistant to treatment
Date:1/11/2008

lls act as cancer stem cells.

The Johns Hopkins scientists also compared the response of these special stem cells with the bulk of multiple myeloma plasma cells, to four different chemotherapy medications commonly used to treat patients with the disease: dexamethasone, lenadilomide, bortezomib and 4-hydroxycyclophosphamide. While all four agents significantly inhibited the growth of the plasma cells, none inhibited the stem cells.

To their surprise, the research team noted that the multiple myeloma stem cells resemble other types of adult stem cells and exhibit similar properties that may make them resistant to chemotherapy. They found that the stem cells contain high levels of enzymes that neutralize toxins, like cancer drugs, and expel them through miniature pumps on their cell surface. The investigators believe that these drug-fighting enzymes and pumps - also plentiful in normal stem cells - may help cancer stem cells resist treatment.

Nature made normal stem cells very hearty for a reason, namely to survive and help repair damaged tissues and organs after injury or illness, says William Matsui, M.D., an assistant professor of oncology at Hopkins and the studys lead investigator. To us, it makes sense that the same processes that protect normal stem cells also exist in cancer stem cells to make them resistant to chemotherapy. We need to develop new ways to target the specific biology of cancer stem cells to prevent the continued production of mature tumor cells and disease relapse.

Standard cancer therapy is like mowing the weed - it gets rid of the disease transiently but the dandelion always grows back. We need to get rid of the root to cure disease, and therefore need a different type of therapy - mowing wont work, says Jones.

Matsui says the work also may make it possible to track the rare myeloma stem cells as a marker of how well a patient is doing during treatment.

Multiple myeloma is the second
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Contact: Vanessa Wasta
wastava@jhmi.edu
410-955-1287
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Source:Eurekalert

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