Feb 5th 2019

Cancer growth in the body could originate from a single cell – targeting it could revolutionise treatment

 

Cancer remains a frightening and largely incurable disease. The toxic side effects of chemotherapy and radiation make the cure often seem as bad as the ailment, and there is also the threat of recurrence and tumour spread.

Cancer treatment still follows a practically medieval method of cut, burn or poison. If the growth can’t be cut out through surgery, it may be burnt away with radiation or poisoned by chemotherapy. As a result, cancer therapy remains a daunting diagnosis for patients and treatment options seem limited for a disease which causes one in six deaths globally.

The failure to innovate in cancer treatment may lie in the very poor success rate of clinical trials. Approximately 95%-98% of new anti-cancer drugs actually fail phase III clinical trials, the phase in which new treatments are compared with existing therapy options. This is a staggering statistic. No other business could possibly survive with such an abysmal success rate.

Most drugs are made to target “bulk” cancer cells, but not the root cause: the cancer stem cell. Cancer stem cells, also known as “tumour-initiating cells”, are the only cells in the tumour that can make a new tumour. New therapies that specifically target and eradicate these cancer stem cells are needed to prevent tumours growing and spreading, but for that there needs to be more clarity around the target.

Our new research may have discovered such a target. We have identified and isolated cells within different cancerous growths which we call the “cell of origin”. Our experiments on cancer cells derived from a human breast tumour found that stem cells – representing 0.2% of the cancer cell population – have special characteristics.


Read more: Drug-resistant cancers kill millions – here's how we're tackling them


They generate vast amounts of energy and proliferate rapidly. We believe that they resemble the cancer cell of origin that has escaped senescence – the natural process of cell ageing and “death” which concludes a healthy cell life cycle. These are thought to be the first cancer cells which start the process of uncontrolled cell multiplication and cause tumours to form.

These cancer stem cells undergo anchorage-independent growth, also known as growth in suspension, without any tissue attachment. This is how metastasis occurs – spreading via the blood vessels and lymphatic vessels. These features put them front and centre as a new target for anti-cancer therapy.

With astonishing luck, these energetic cancer stem cells are colour-coded which means they have a natural phosphorescent glow, making them easy to identify and target.

Now that we have found them and we know how they behave, it should be relatively simple to find drugs to target cancer stem cells. In our new paper we have already shown that they are easily targeted with a mitochondrial inhibitor or a cell cycle inhibitor such as Ribociclib, an FDA-approved drug in the US which would prevent their proliferation.

Ultimately, this means that if we focus on energetic cancer stem cells, we may be able to directly hit the target. We might be able to turn cancer into a manageable chronic disease, like diabetes. We believe that we have arrived at the start of a new, more fruitful, road in cancer therapy. As a consequence, “big pharma” drug screening should actually focus on cancer stem cells and their relevant targets.

 

Michael P. Lisanti, Professor of Translational Medicine, University of Salford

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Browse articles by author

More Essays

Apr 23rd 2018
Quantitative evidence from three independent sources — auction prices, textbook illustrations, and counts of paintings included in retrospective exhibitions — all pointed to the fact that some important modern artists made their greatest work late in their careers — Cézanne, for example, in his 60s, and Kandinsky and Rothko in their 50s. But the same evidence indicated that other important artists produced their greatest work very early — Picasso, Johns, and Stella, for example, all in their 20s. Why was this was the case: why did great artists do their best work at such different stages of their careers? I couldn’t answer this question until I understood what makes an artist’s work his or her best.
Apr 19th 2018

People of all ages are at risk from diseases brought on by loneliness, new data has revealed.

Apr 9th 2018

I was a senior university student in Baghdad, Iraq. It was March 2003, and over the past few months, my classmates had whispered to each other about the possibility of a US-led invasion and the likelihood that 35 years of dictatorship and tyranny could be brought to an end.

Mar 26th 2018
In 1815, 69-year old Francisco de Goya painted a small self-portrait. Today it hangs in Madrid’s majestic Prado Museum. Next to it are the two enormous paintings of the uprising of May, 1808, in which Madrid’s citizens had been slaughtered by Napoleon’s troops, that Goya had painted in 1814 for King Ferdinand VII, to be hung in Madrid’s Royal Palace. One of these, of the execution of Spanish civilians by a French firing squad, is now among the most famous images in the history of Western art.
Mar 15th 2018

Soon after I enrolled as a graduate student at Cambridge University in 1964, I encountered a fellow student, two years ahead of me in his studies, who was unsteady on his feet and spoke with great difficulty. This was Stephen Hawking.

Mar 3rd 2018

A lack of essential nutrients is known to contribute to the onset of poor mental health in people suffering from anxiety and depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and

Feb 27th 2018

Mindfulness is big business, worth in excess of US$1.0 billion in the US alone and linked – somewhat paradoxically – to an expanding range of must have products.

Feb 23rd 2018

Reverend Jonathan Arnold, dean of divinity at Magdalen college, Oxford, has written about the “seeming paradox that, in today’s so-called secular society, sacred choral music is as

Feb 16th 2018

Orson Welles was a flamboyant showman: Andrew Sarris observed that “Every Welles film is designed around the massive presence of the artist as autobiographer…The Wellesian cinema is the cinema of magic and marvels, and everything, especially its prime protagonist,

Feb 8th 2018

Almost all of us have experienced loneliness at some point. It is the pain we have felt following a breakup, perhaps the loss of a loved one, or a move away from home. We are vulnerable to feeling lonely at any point in our lives.

Feb 6th 2018

NEW YORK – Chuck Close is an American artist, famous for painting large portraits. Severely paralyzed, Close is confined to a wheelchair. Former models have accused him of asking them to take their clothes off and of using sexual language that made them feel harassed.

Feb 1st 2018

There is a widespread perception that mental ill health is on the rise in the West, in tandem with a prolonged decline in collective well-being.

Jan 24th 2018

People over the age of 65 make up a larger percentage of the global population than ever before.

Jan 21st 2018

Donald Trump has been under constant fire from critics since he began his campaign in the summer of 2015, and his presidency has so far been perhaps the most chaotic and bizarre in recent decades.

Jan 17th 2018

PRINCETON – Last month, an Egyptian court sentenced Laura Plummer, a 33-year old English shop worker, to three years in prison for smuggling 320 doses of tramadol into the country. Tramadol is a prescription opioid available in the United Kingdom for pain relief.

Jan 9th 2018

Two American academics who lost relatives in the liquidation of Western Ukrainian political prisoners in World War II have compiled the first exhaustive account of this little-known Soviet killing spree. What happened?

Jan 9th 2018

When people experience stress, the adrenal glands that sit on top of the kidneys release a steroid hormone called cortisol.

Jan 7th 2018

It’s January, so it’s likely that you have set yourself goals to be more physically active and less stressed in 2018. Paradoxically, better goals would be to stop worrying about how much exercise you’re getting and to stop worrying about being too stressed.