Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Putting leukaemia stem cells into reverse

Stem cells are ‘starter’ cells that produce all the organs and tissues of the body. As a baby grows in the womb, its stem cells churn out brand new specialised cells that will form an entire body, from lungs, liver and brain to head, shoulders, knees and toes. And as adults, we still have stem cells that replenish our skin, gut and other tissues as they get worn out.

But stem cells have a rogue counterpart – cancer stem cells, which we’ve written about several times on the blog. They’re the ‘immortal’ cells that appear to lie at the heart of many cancers, including some bowel, breast and prostate cancers, and leukaemia.

Cancer stem cells appear to be more resistant to radiotherapy and chemotherapy than the cells making up the ‘bulk’ of the tumour, so understanding how these rogue stem cells originate – and how we can kill them – will be a big step forward.

To read more about this subject on the Cancer Research Website click HERE.


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