Skip to main content
• Social Media: Connect with UsAccessibility  |  About  |  Contact  |  Privacy  |  Terms

Compound that Kills Cancer Stem Cells Found

  • Published: 2009-08-15 : Cell Press.
  • Synopsis: Cancer stem cells that drive tumor growth and resist chemotherapies and radiation treatments that kill other cancer cells are not invincible.

Main Document

The cancer stem cells that drive tumor growth and resist chemotherapies and radiation treatments that kill other cancer cells aren't invincible after all. Researchers reporting online on August 13th in the journal Cell, a Cell Press publication, have discovered the first compound that targets those cancer stem cells directly.

The cancer stem cells that drive tumor growth and resist chemotherapies and radiation treatments that kill other cancer cells aren't invincible after all. Researchers reporting online on August 13th in the journal Cell, a Cell Press publication, have discovered the first compound that targets those cancer stem cells directly.

"It wasn't clear it would be possible to find compounds that selectively kill cancer stem cells," said Piyush Gupta of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Broad Institute. "We've shown it can be done."

The team including MIT's Robert Weinberg and the Broad Institute's Eric Lander developed a new high-throughput screening method that makes it possible for the first time to systematically look for agents that kill cancer stem cells. That ability had previously eluded researchers due to the rarity of those cells within tumor cell populations and their relative instability in laboratory culture.

In the new study, the researchers manipulated cultured breast cancer cells to greatly enrich for those with the stem-like properties, including increased resistance to standard cancer drugs. They then screened a library of 16,000 natural and commercial chemical compounds for their ability to kill those stem-like cells and not other cancer cells. That screen turned up 32 contenders.

The researchers narrowed that list down to a handful of chemicals that they could readily get in sufficient quantities for further testing on normal cancer stem cells. Of those, one called salinomycin was the clear winner.

Salinomycin reduced the proportion of breast cancer stem cells by more than 100-fold compared to a commonly used chemotherapeutic drug for breast cancer called paclitaxel (aka Taxol ). Salinomycin-treated cells were less able than paclitaxel-treated ones to seed tumors when injected into mice, they report. Salinomycin treatment also slowed the growth of the animals' tumors.

Studies of salinomycin-treated human breast tumors also showed a loss in the activity of genes associated with cancer stem cells.

Exactly how salinomycin's works against cancer stem cells, the researchers don't yet know. As its name suggests, the chemical has antibiotic properties that likely aren't relevant to its newfound cancer stem cell-killing ability. It also disturbs cells' potassium balance.

It remains unclear whether salinomycin itself might find its way to the clinic, Gupta said, since many pharmaceutical steps are involved in the drug discovery process. Nevertheless, the chemical does serve as an immediate tool for manipulating cancer stem cell numbers and observing the effects on cancer's spread and progression.

The findings also highlight a new avenue for the development of cancer therapies, the researchers say.

" To date, rational cancer therapies have been designed to target specific genetic alterations present within tumors," they wrote. "The findings here indicate that a second approach may also prove useful namely, searching for agents that target specific states of cancer cell differentiation. Accordingly, future therapies could offer greater possibilities for individualized treatment by considering both the genetic alterations and differentiation states present within the cancer cells of a tumor at the time of diagnosis."

They envision a future in which combination therapies might couple more traditional cancer drugs with those designed to hit the cancer stem cells that would otherwise get left behind.

Reference: The researchers include Piyush B. Gupta, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, MA; Tamer T. Onder, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Cambridge, MA; Guozhi Jiang, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, MA; Kai Tao, Tufts University School of Medicine and Molecular Oncology Research Institute, Tufts Medical Center, Boston, MA; Charlotte Kuperwasser, Tufts University School of Medicine and Molecular Oncology Research Institute, Tufts Medical Center, Boston, MA; Robert A. Weinberg, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Cambridge, MA, MIT Ludwig Center for Molecular Oncology, Cambridge, MA; and Eric S. Lander, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Cambridge, MA, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, MA, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.

Similar Topics

1 - Early Deaths From Childhood Cancer 400% More Common Than Previously Reported - University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.
2 - Genetic Explanation For Higher Cancer Rates in Males Than Females - Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
3 - Tobacco Use Accounts For 40% of All Cancers Diagnosed in US - U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
4 - How Cancer spreads in the Body - Unexpected Findings Reveal Insight - Queen Mary University of London.
5 - Meat Products: Carcinogens & Cancer Risks - Thomas C. Weiss.
From our Cancer and Tumors section - Full List (74 Items)

Submit disability news, coming events, as well as assistive technology product news and reviews.


Loan Information for low income singles, families, seniors and disabled. Includes home, vehicle and personal loans.


Famous People with Disabilities - Well known people with disabilities and conditions who contributed to society.


List of awareness ribbon colors and their meaning. Also see our calendar of awareness dates.


Blood Pressure Chart - What should your blood pressure be, and information on blood group types/compatibility.



1 - DIVAS Rule the Runway at The Woodlands
2 - Ultra-thin Optical Fibers Provide Way to Print 3D Microstructures
3 - Brain Imaging Predicts Language Learning in Deaf Children
4 - Asthma Costs US Economy Over $80 Billion a Year
5 - Synthesized Nanoparticle-Antioxidants to Treat SCI and Stroke



Citation


Disclaimer: This site does not employ and is not overseen by medical professionals. Content on Disabled World is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. See our Terms of Service for more information.

Reporting Errors: Disabled World is an independent website, your assistance in reporting outdated or inaccurate information is appreciated. If you find an error please let us know.