Researchers at the Yorkshire Cancer Research Unit (YCR) at the University of York in England have found the stem cell that ultimately triggers the development of prostate cancer . This new finding opens up different possibilities to treat the cancer.
The "parent" stem cell research was carried out by Professor Norman Maitland and Dr Anne Collins. They say that cancer stem cells are no different from normal stem cells in their function. They say that they were able to extract only 0.1 percent of the stem cells from prostate tumors, but this minute number was responsible for directing other cells to turn cancerous. Professor Maitland compares current prostate cancer treatments to cutting off the leaves and trunk of a plant but leaving behind the roots that have the potential to grow back. In essence, if the stem cells were killed off, there is no chance of the cancer returning. "For the first time we have been able to extract these stem cells from prostate cancers, and we are the only people in the world who have been able to propagate them in the laboratory," Maitland said. "We are beginning to understand what they look like. We can now investigate specific therapies for killing the roots, rather than the leaves, of prostate cancers."
Elaine King, chief executive of YCR said that this new development furthered their understanding of tumor stem cells, "This latest discovery will allow YCR scientists to build upon this framework of knowledge, in the hope of developing effective treatments in the future," King said. This research could also open the doors for the treatment of other cancers that have tumor stem cells including brain tumors, breast cancer and colon cancer.
The details of the study appear in Cancer Research, the journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.