Much to the dismay of patients and physicians, cancer stem cells — tiny powerhouses that generate and maintain tumor growth in many types of cancers — are relatively resistant to the ionizing radiation often used as therapy for these conditions. Part of the reason, say researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine, is the presence of a protective pathway meant to shield normal stem cells from DNA damage. When the researchers blocked this pathway, the cells became more susceptible to radiation.
“Our ultimate goal is to come up with a therapy that knocks out the cancer stem cells,” said Robert
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Dalhousie Medical School cancer researcher Dr. Patrick Lee has proven that a common virus can infect and kill breast cancer stem cells. This breakthrough finding is published in the current issue of Molecular Therapy, the journal of the American Society of Gene Therapy.
It is only within the past few years that the scientific community has understood the full significance of cancer stem cells and the urgent need to find a means of eliminating them.
“Cancer stem cells are essentially mother cells,” explains Dr. Lee, Cameron Chair in Basic Cancer Research at Dalhousie Medical School. “They continuously produce new