June 18, 2007
Stem Cells Help Early Cancer Growth

Stem cells help early stage cancer growth by creating blood vessels.

Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y. -- Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) researchers led by Daniel Nolan and Assistant Professor Vivek Mittal have found that bone marrow (BM) derived endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) play a critical role in the early stages of tumor progression and that eliminating EPCs stops cancer growth. Using sophisticated high-resolution microscopy and flow cytometry, they zeroed in on the earliest stages of cancer progression and identified the role of EPCs in generating blood vessels that allow cancers to grow. “If we selectively blocked the EPCs, tumors were unable to make blood vessels and could not sustain their own growth,” said Vivek Mittal, CSHL Assistant Professor.

But how to use this knowledge therapeutically? Usually early stage cancers go undetected. So suppression of stem cells in early stage cancers isn't a practical way to stop cancers. Scientists already know (and Judah Folkman gets much of the credit) that cancer cells mutate to release angiogenesis compounds to stimulate blood vessel growth. Some anti-cancer drugs work as angiogenesis inhibitors. We need more such compounds.

What this result makes me wonder: Once we can get youthful stem cell therapies will the stem cells up our cancer risk even if the stem cells themselves do not become cancerous? Maybe aging stem cells reduce the ability of tumors to spur blood vessel generation that tumors need to grow. Maybe young stem cells will more vigorously respond to angiogenesis compounds that cancer cells secrete and will build blood vessels more rapidly.

Some of the slowing down in the body that happens with age is likely an adaptation designed to reduce the risk of cancer spread. We need highly effective cures for cancer that cause little collateral damage. Those cancer cures will lower the risks of future rejuvenation therapies.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 June 18 10:29 PM  Biotech Cancer

Brett Bellmore said at June 22, 2007 7:18 PM:

Here's a thought, related to cancer and stem cells, though not this particular relationship:

If we start stem cell treatments, the body will eventually come to be composed of cells decended from those stem cells. Eventually.

So, if instead of treating a person with one stem cell line, treat them with many stem cell lines, each engineered to have a specific apoptosis trigger.

Later, when the person gets cancer, you biopsy it, determine which line it decended from, and supply the appropriate trigger. All the cancer cells, along with a tiny fraction of healthy cells, (The more distinct lines, the smaller the fraction.) die. Cancer cured!

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