UCLA stem cell research may lead to improved prostate cancer …

Researchers at UCLAs Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research have made another breakthrough in the fight against prostate cancer. They found that two types of malignant prostate cancer cells can develop in one type of stem cell; thus, making prostate cancer stem cells a moving target for treatments. The researchers note that the finding could lead to new and improved treatments that can target prostate cancer cells. They published their findings online on November 26 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Adult stem cells are regenerative cells that replace diseased or damaged cells in organs. The researchers previously reported that prostate cancer can originate in basal type stem cells. The new study, based on that research, showed that tumors can start in basal stem cells that evolve to luminal cells that result in aggressive spread of the cancer and that these luminal cells can change in their characteristics over time; thus, making them resistant to treatment.

Study author Dr. Andrew Goldstein explained, People have begun to think about cancers as being driven by stem cells in the same way that many of our adult organs are maintained by dedicated stem cells. Based on this new understanding, a lot of excitement surrounds the concept of going right to the root of the tumor and targeting those stem cells to eradicate the cancer.

Patients with aggressive prostate cancer are often treated with anti-androgen (anti-male hormone) therapy; the basal stem cells that develop into the cancer cells look different from the luminal cells that maintain the aggressive disease. In addition, the tumor stem cells that are not destroyed by the anti-androgen treatment look different from the previous two. Because of this process, in order to develop an appropriate treatment, the researchers must identify cell types that evolve as the disease and its treatment develop. Now that the researchers have determined that prostate cancer stem cells can change what their appearance, he investigators are now searching for possible elements that are consistent within the stem cells and do not change through stem cell evolution. They are of the opinion that this knowledge will help develop drugs that target the evolving cancer stem cells. Thus , they are now attempting to detect some of the factors that define a stem cell regardless of its external appearance. They stress that it is extremely important to understand the continual evolution of the stem cells physical appearance, particularly as tumors adapt to become resistant to new and more potent therapies.

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