A new plan of attack against breast cancer stem cells

It was Max Wicha of the University of Michigan who first identified breast cancer stem cells back in 2003. Now, Wicha and colleagues have identified a possible way to attack these cells, which are responsible for a tumor's growth and spread.

The researchers found that breast cancer stem cells are regulated by a type of cell derived from bone marrow, called mesenchymal stem cells. These cells are drawn from the bone marrow to the cancer and create a "niche" for the cancer stem cells, allowing them to replicate. "The importance of this is that we may be able to attack breast cancer stem cells indirectly by blocking these signals from the niche," Wicha said in a statement.

They took a look at breast cancer in mice and found that the tumors sent signals that attracted mesenchymal stem cells from the bone marrow. They then stimulated the growth of breast cancer stem cells. The researchers identified two signals from a cytokine network--a type of protein that affects how cells communicate--that were responsible for stem cell regulation. Block these cytokine signals, and researchers hope they can successfully target the cancer stem cell population and provide a more effective treatment for breast cancer.

- or take a look at the UM release
- read the article in Cancer Research