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Ovarian cancer stem cell study points to targeted therapies

by , 08 January 2013

Cancer is one of the most dreaded diseases, as the later it's picked up on, the more difficult it is to target and treat. But treatment of ovarian cancer may soon be much more precise, as Yale School of Medicine researchers have found a link between stem cell factors that fuel the growth of ovarian cancer and patient prognosis. The study is published online in the current issue of Cell Cycle. Here's how the study's paving the way for developing novel targeted ovarian cancer therapies.

Lead author Yingqun Huang, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences, and her colleagues have found a connection between two concepts that are changing how cancer is treated.
The first concept is that of “cancer stem cells”. This idea suggests that every tumour holds cells that fuel the tumour’s growth. While ordinary therapies kill the bulk of tumour cells, they leave behind the bulk, which result in continued growth.
The second theory is called “seed and soil”. It shows that the tumour cells create a special environment for the growth and spread of cancer cells.
Co-author Nita J. Maihle says, “Both concepts have particular relevance for the treatment of adult solid tumours such as ovarian cancer, which has been notoriously difficult to diagnose and treat. Ovarian cancer patients are plagued by recurrences of tumour cells that are resistant to chemotherapy, ultimately leading to uncontrolled cancer growth and death.”
Specific stem cell-signalling protein link guides future therapy
In this study, Huang and her colleagues defined a molecular basis for the interplay of these concepts in ovarian cancer. They used sophisticated gene sequencing methods to demonstrate a regulatory link between the stem cell factor Lin28 and the signalling molecule bone morphogenic protein 4 (BMP4).
“These results are supported by the latest molecular ovarian cancer prognosis data, which also suggest an active role for the tumour microenvironment in ovarian carcinogenesis,” said Huang and Maihle. “Together, these studies reveal new targets for the development of cancer therapies.”
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