By revealing the inner workings of a common cell-to-cell signaling system, University of Michigan biologists have uncovered new clues about cancer stem cells. The findings also have implications for a breast-cancer drug trial getting underway at the U-M Medical School and two other institutions.
In the trial, researchers are combining chemotherapy with a drug that blocks the Notch signaling pathway, which helps regulate fetal development and is active in most organ systems throughout a person’s life. The aim is to use so-called Notch inhibitors to attack cancer stem cells, the small fraction of stem cells inside a tumor that help it survive and that fuel its growth. But a big concern is that the Notch inhibitors, while helping to destroy cancer stem cells, might also kill or harm the normal, healthy stem cells critical to a patient’s survival – such as blood-forming stem cells in the bone marrow.
Release date: April 9, 2008
Source: Univeristy of Michigan