New breast cancer stem cell findings explain how cancer spreads
Recently, Liu’s lab and their collaborators identify two types of cancer stem cells; both necessary to create metastasis.
The lethal part of cancer is its metastasis so understanding how metastasis occurs is critical. There are evidence that cancer stem cells are responsible for metastasis – they are the seeds that mediate cancer’s spread. Now Liu et al have discovered how the stem cells do this. These studies show that breast cancer stem cells exist in two different states and each state plays a role in how cancer spreads, which sheds new light on the process that makes cancer a deadly disease.First, on the outside of the tumor, a type of stem cell exists in a state called the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) state. These stem cells appear dormant but are very invasive and able to get into the bloodstream, where they travel to distant parts of the body.Once there, the stem cells transition to a second state that displays the opposite characteristics, called the mesenchymal-epithelial transition state (MET). These cells are capable of growing and making copies of themselves, producing new tumors. So, it’s necessary to have both forms of cancer stem cells to metastasize and grow in distant organs. If the stem cell is locked in one or the other state, it can’t form a metastasis.The findings, which are published in Stem Cell Reports (Cell Press) (Vol. 2, Issue 1, Page 78–91, January 14, 2014), raise a number of questions about how to treat or prevent metastatic breast cancer. Researchers must now understand whether new therapies must attack both forms of the stem cell to be successful. Different pathways regulate each type of stem cell, which suggests that effective therapies must be able to target multiple pathways.This study looked specifically at breast cancer stem cells but the researchers believe the findings likely have implications for other cancer types as well.
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