Rogue Stem Cell Study Yields Anti-Cancer Protein

Evidence is mounting that rogue stem cells brandishing epigenetic marks (changes in gene regulation that occur without a change in DNA sequence) are at the heart of some, if not all, cancers, says Maarten van Lohuizen, of the Netherlands Cancer Institute. He recently told a conference that his team in the Netherlands has uncovered a key protein that could stop these stem cells from becoming malignant. “This is a hot topic in the cancer field,” he explained. “To be successful in cancer therapy you need to target these stem cells: they are intrinsically resistant to chemotherapy.”

His findings suggest that polycomb proteins – powerful epigenetic regulators that normally silence genes without altering the cell’s DNA – are a key player in cancer development. Compounds that regulate these proteins could result in novel anticancer drugs that shrink malignant tissue, and prevent cancer recurrence.

Similarities between tumors and stem cells have recognized for many years. Both self-renew and both spawn many different types of cells. But only recently, new techniques have enabled biologists to identify the stem cells at the heart of tumor development.

Van Lohuizen found that stem cells in cancerous tissues are locked in an immature state in which they carry on multiplying instead of maturing into specific tissues. “Some resistant cancer cells don’t listen to the ‘stop’ signal any more,” he explained. That stop signal is delivered by the polycomb proteins, believes Van Lohuizen, which can silence several genes at once by affecting the way the DNA is compacted into chromatin fibers, without altering the DNA sequence.

Normally, polycomb proteins repress genes during development, or when stem cells are needed for tissue maintenance. But an aberrant polycomb spells trouble. In mice where polycomb proteins have been genetically disabled, van Lohuizen has seen that the cells become invasive and trigger cancerous growth. “This may be why gliomas are such lethal tumors, because these stem cells become highly migratory,” van Lohuizen points out. The Dutch researcher is optimistic that therapeutic agents that target these budding cancer stem cells can be found. “We have to be very careful because [these compounds] will also regulate normal stem cell behavior. It is a fine balance,” he warned.

Related articles:

Stem Cell Stumbling Blocks
Stem Cells May Prove Hard To Tame
Scientists Explore Manipulation Of Cancer Evolution

Source: European Science Foundation

, ,

Comments are closed.

Funko Hello Kitty - Breast Cancer Awareness picture

Funko Hello Kitty - Breast Cancer Awareness

$15.00



Breast Cancer Awareness Ribbon Pinback Lapel Pin 1” Lght Pink Gold Tone picture

Breast Cancer Awareness Ribbon Pinback Lapel Pin 1” Lght Pink Gold Tone

$3.10



Canadian Cancer Society Enamel Lapel Pin Gold Toned Single Post Clutch Back picture

Canadian Cancer Society Enamel Lapel Pin Gold Toned Single Post Clutch Back

$12.99



LONGABERGER HORIZON OF HOPE 2005 American Breast Cancer Society basket and liner picture

LONGABERGER HORIZON OF HOPE 2005 American Breast Cancer Society basket and liner

$11.00



Pink Ribbon Holiday Ornament Breast Cancer Awareness Car Desk Office  picture

Pink Ribbon Holiday Ornament Breast Cancer Awareness Car Desk Office

$8.99



*NEW* Salem

*NEW* Salem "Breast Cancer Awareness, MA (4" x 5") shoulder police patch (fire)

$4.25



1975 Press Photo County General Hospital's breast cancer detection center. picture

1975 Press Photo County General Hospital's breast cancer detection center.

$10.00



longaberger basket breast cancer picture

longaberger basket breast cancer

$32.00



Funko Pop DC Heroes: Breast Cancer Awareness - Batman Vinyl Figure picture

Funko Pop DC Heroes: Breast Cancer Awareness - Batman Vinyl Figure

$12.95



The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Fighting Blood Cancer Collectible Lapel Pin picture

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Fighting Blood Cancer Collectible Lapel Pin

$39.08



Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes