Researchers have identified a new stem cell population in the colon linked to cancer growth. The findings, published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, will significantly change the way we study and treat colon cancer.
Globally, colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in males and the second in females, with over 1.2 million new cases and 608,700 deaths estimated to have occurred in 2008. Now, researchers have identified a previously unknown, long-lived radiation-resistant stem cell population in the colon. Most importantly, they also found that these stem cells can give rise to colonic tumors and sustain their growth. Tissue stem cells are unique cells essential for normal tissue maintenance and regeneration. Their unique characteristic of longevity, however, makes them the most likely cell of origin for cancer.
'These findings are exciting as we have identified an important new target for cancer therapy. It is also proof that more than one stem cell can give rise to and sustain tumors, telling us that our cancer therapy needs to target more than one stem cell pool,' the researchers said.
Until now, the only stem cell population linked to colon cancer was radiation sensitive, leading physicians to believe that radiation therapy was effective. 'With this new information, we now know this is not always true and we must find new forms of therapy to target the disease,' the researchers concluded.
Based on material originally posted by Lawson Health Research Institute.