Friday, August 28, 2009

Globe & Mail article on CSCs

Cancer stem cells spur hope, skepticism by Jill Colvin, The Globe and Mail, August 27, 2009. [WebCite cache][Twitter entry][FriendFeed entry]. Excerpt:
Ontario Cancer Institute researcher John Dick, arguably the world's leading authority in the field, first identified stem cells in leukemia in the 1990s. Today, few doubt they play a key role in blood cancers.
In addition to this comment about the crucial contributions of John Dick, research on brain-tumour stem cells by Samuel Weiss is noted. There's also mention of the MIT and Harvard joint venture, Identification of Selective Inhibitors of Cancer Stem Cells by High-Throughput Screening, published in Cell 2009(Aug 13). [See also this post in CSC News, August 14, 2009].

The criticisms by Scott Kern (such as: The fuzzy math of solid tumor stem cells: a perspective) of application the CSC hypothesis to colon, breast, or lung cancer are outlined. There's also a comment attributed to Richard Hill:
The hypothesis also hinges on the assumption that these cells are rare. Otherwise, traditional cancer therapies that shrink tumours would be killing them, too, and there would be no need to develop specialized treatments.
The "game-changing paper" by a team led by Sean Morrison, Efficient tumour formation by single human melanoma cells is also discussed. [See another post in CSC News, December 3, 2008, about this paper]. This research supports the view that "... stem cells may be key for some kinds of cancers and not for others".[This paper has attracted much attention. See, for example, Cancer Stem Cells May Not Be the Supervillains We Thought by Alexis Madrigal, Wired Science, December 3, 2008].

The article in The Globe & Mail ends with a paragraph about the hope that "new drug combinations that target all cell types" [associated with tumors] will be found, and a quote from William Hahn: "Whether the hypothesis is correct or incorrect in its full-blown beauty is really not important in the end" . [What really matters, from a clinical perspective, is whether or not efforts to target CSCs, in addition to other kinds of cells associated with tumors, will lead to improved outcomes for patients].

The article has already attracted some comments from readers.

Disclosure: I'm a co-author of some early papers about the CSC hypothesis, such as: J Natl Cancer Inst 1983(Jan); 70(1): 9-16.

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