The key to eradicating tumors and preventing relapses and metastasis is buried within the tumor itself. The tumor cells themselves contain a sort of needle in the haystack. Just 1% of the total volume of the tumor is responsible for reproduction, and a targeted surgery or drugs could be sufficient enough to “deactivate” the tumor and avoid any possibility of a reoccurrence. This type of treatment could possibly change the therapeutic approach to malignant tumors according to an Italian study at the Superior Health Institute (ISS) by Professor Ruggero De Maria, the Director of the Hematology, Oncology, and Molecular Medicine Department of the ISS in collaboration with professor Vito D’Andrea of the ‘Sapienza’ University in Rome.
“We have discovered,” explained D’Andrea, who will present the results of the study during the national congress of the Italian Society of Surgery, “that tumor stem cells, although only one or two percent of the population of tumor cells, are the most important in terms their aggressiveness, determining a tumor’s ability to metastasize and reform. Removing these cells from a sample of colon cancer and inoculating mice with just 3,000 cells caused the mice to generate the tumor.” From this, the researchers deduced that “radical surgery must coincide with eradicating stem cells.”
For this reason, the congress of surgeons made an appeal to radiologists: “We must highlight these cells with computerized images in order to operate on and ‘shut off’ the tumor.” The focus of an Italy-U.S. joint study, with the active participation of the ISS, is to make an effort to identify tumor stem cells. “We are analyzing all of the possible stem cell “targets,” confirmed Professor De Maria, “also to understand which drugs can function the best. We hope to map the possible stem cell markers in order to target and strike them.”