Detecting and killing abnormal stem cells in the gut can turn out to be an effective strategy to fight bowel cancer in its early stages, according to UK experts.
Bowel cancer is caused because of malfunctioning in immature cells lining the gut, which normally replace and repair the tissue.
Detecting and obliterating these rogue cancer stem cells as soon as they appear could be a potent new anti-cancer strategy, say the researcher.
Professor Malcolm Alison, of Barts and The London School of Medicine, insists that the same method may also work for other cancers.
The researchers have been looking at how bowel cancers grow and spread in the body, and now they have found mounting evidence to show that faulty self-renewing stem cells are the culprit.
And they will continue to propagate, unless they are removed like the root of a weed.
While scientists are not clear exactly which cells in the gut become cancer stem cells, they know that they exist and have a key role in the formation of cancer.
Alison said that, if found, such cells could be treated before the development of life-threatening tumors.
The researcher further said that early detection would make treatment easier, less invasive and more effective.
"Drugs could be targeted to specifically work on cancer stem cells and so provide a more direct approach for treating bowel cancer," the BBC quoted Alison as saying.
He added: "For instance, it may be possible to kill these abnormal stem cells by triggering them to self-destruct. I can see trials within the next three years in patients to knock out these cells."
The study was presented at a UK National Stem Cell Network conference.