After his discovery in leukemia, groups including several CIRM grantees at Stanford University and UCLA started finding cancer stem cells in other forms of leukemia and, controversially, in solid tumors. Now that controversy seems to be over.
Three papers published last week in the journals Science and Nature show the presence of cancer stem cells in cancers of the brain, intestines and skin. The L.A. Times quotes CIRM grantee and cancer stem cell expert Owen Witte of UCLA:
"People can stop arguing. Now they can say, 'OK, the cells are here. We now need to know how to treat them.'”CIRM had bet that cancer stem cells exist, investing heavily in research projects intending to find therapies for cancer that eradicate the cancer stem cells. One of those projects, led by UC San Diego scientist Catriona Jamieson, has already resulted in a clinical trial for a form of pre-leukemia. You can see a list of all CIRM cancer awards here.
Most cancer therapies destroy the fast-growing cells that make up the bulk of the disease. If the more slowly-dividing cancer stem cells survive that treatment, then the cancer will return. By showing that the cancer stem cells do exist scientists can focus their efforts on finding was of eradicating that very different population of cells.
This story from Stanford University has more background about the history of cancer stem cells.
Here is Catriona Jamieson describing cancer stem cells back in 2008.