Targeting Breast Cancer: Adult Stem Cell Research

Posted By on May 16th, 2011 at 12:54 pm | 1404 comments.

Over the last few years, much discussion and debate in the media has focused on using stem cells in medical research.  The issue has centered on the use of fetal stem cells, their possible use in research to cure or better treat a wide variety of diseases, and the ethical questions surrounding such research.  However, stem cells are not only found in fetal tissue; adult stem cells exist in the mature human body.

Stem cells were discovered in the breast in 2003 by researchers at the University of Michigan. They are defined as cells that “have the ability to continuously divide and develop into various other kinds of cells/tissue.”  It is possible that when a cancer re-emerges after hormonal therapy and chemotherapy, even in a woman with ER-positive breast cancer, the culprit may be stem cells that have not been affected by the treatment.  In recent laboratory research, investigators have tested the drug sorafenib (Nevaxar®), a drug used in the treatment of kidney and liver cancers, and found that this agent eliminated more breast cancer stem cells and blocked tumor formation better than 4 other drugs tested. It is now being examined in clinical trials.  This approach to cancer treatment, which deals with the disease at a cellular level through the targeting of genes and proteins, is one that we will see more of in the coming years as therapeutic options begin to focus on individual patient and tumor characteristics.

For more information about this research, click here. Or, more information about stem cells can be found here.

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