An Overview of Cancer Stem Cells

An overview and update on the latest cancer stem cell research, via the Economist: "The cancer-stem-cell theory, though plausible, was based on animal experiments and its relevance to humans was untested. But a series of studies reported this week [has] changed that. They suggest both that cancer stem cells are very relevant indeed to survival, and that going after them is an excellent idea. ... [Researchers] looked at samples from 268 people with pancreatic cancer and found that the pattern of stem cells in their tumours predicted how long they would live. Those whose tumours had stem cells at their edges (the 'invasive margin' in the militaristic jargon of the cancer-warriors) lived on for an average of 14 months. Those who did not lived an average of 18 months. Not a huge difference, but confirmation that cancer stem cells have an impact on the outcome of disease." The path to effective destruction of cancer stem cells - with none of the harm caused by untargeted chemotherapy - is the use of targeted delivery vectors, keyed to the biochemical differences between cancer stem cells and other cells, a technology presently showing great promise in the laboratory.


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