After developing a novel method to create cancer stem-like cells, researchers were able to identify a chemical that was a hundred times more effective than a common chemotherapy in destroying a key driver in the growth of tumors.
Oncology researchers have been zeroing in on cancer stem cells, the master cells believed to play a major role in the most aggressive forms of cancer. But they've been stymied by a difficulty in gathering enough cancer stem cells for their work. In the new study, published in Cell, the researchers used an "epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition" technique that creates cells like the ones they are studying. They used reagents developed in the lab at the Broad Institute and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to create the stem-like cells.
Armed with the fresh material, the researchers were able to screen more than 16,000 chemicals to see which ones were most effective in destroying breast cancer cells. They determined that salinomycin was particularly effective in destroying the lab-created cells as well as natural ones. The same chemical was also effective in limiting the activity of genes that play a role in aggressive cancers. A new animal study is planned.