Researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center have found that a cancer gene linked to aggressive spread of the disease promotes breast cancer stem cells. The finding implies a new way to target the behavior of these lethal cells.
The finding involves the cancer gene RhoC, which has previously been shown to promote metastasis of many types of cancer. RhoC levels increase as breast cancer progresses and high levels of RhoC are associated with worse patient survival.
Cancer stem cells are the small number of cells within a tumor that are believed to fuel the tumor’s growth and spread. Researchers believe traditional chemotherapy and radiation treatments often become ineffective because they do not kill the cancer stem cells, and that the key to future treatments is to develop drugs that target and kill these cells.
This new study, which appears online in PLoS ONE, suggests a new way to get at the cancer stem cells.