McMaster University researchers in Canada are trying to enhance the effectiveness of cancer therapy by allowing them to focus on cancerous cells only while leaving the healthy ones alone.
Mick Bhatia, scientific director of the McMaster Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute in the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, claims that his research team is the first to show the difference between normal stem cells and cancer stem cells in humans.
His work attains significance as it may eventually help with the further customisation and targeting of cancer treatments for the individual patient.
The researcher said that it would immediately provide a model to discover drugs using robotic screening for available molecules, which might have untapped potential to eradicate cancer.
"Normal stem cells and cancer stem cells are hard to tell apart, and many have misconstrued really good stem cells for cancer stem cells that have gone bad - we now can tell the ones masquerading as normal stem cells from the bad, cancerous ones," Nature magazine quoted him as saying.
"This also allows us to compare normal versus cancer stem cells from humans in the laboratory - define the differences in terms of genes they express and drugs they respond to. Essentially, we can now use this to find the "magic bullet", a drug or set of drugs that kill cancer stem cells first, and spare the normal healthy ones.
"McMaster is uniquely positioned for this discovery platform, and this was the missing ingredient - we have one of the best screening/robotic platforms, chemical libraries and expertise in professors Eric Brown and Gerry Wright, who have discovered molecules to combat infectious disease. Now we can combine it all. This team now aims to kill cancer," he added.
An article describing this study has been published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.