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Stem cells 'prompt cancer spread'

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  • Stem cells 'prompt cancer spread'

    Stem cells 'prompt cancer spread'
    Dangerous changes in cancer cells which allow them to spread around the body could be triggered by the body's own stem cells, say US scientists. 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 changes in the way that the cancer cell genes work that make them metastasise - but once the cells spread, these changes are reversed.
    This, the researchers say, not only makes these key genes hard to spot, but means that dangerous changes in cancer cells are potentially reversible.
    HIV treatment hope
    The research has also highlighted a potential treatment to block the changes.
    A chemical called cytokine CCL5, produced by the stem cells, had an effect o