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Chemo Hits Cancer Stem Cells

Researchers at the University of Bergen have conducted successful trials of a new type of chemotherapy that short-circuits cancer stem cells’ signaling system, the “command center” for the creation of new cancer cells.

“In both laboratory and animal testing the drugs have shown tumors to stop growing, to be reduced or even to disappear,” said researcher Xisong Ke at the Department of Clinical Science at the University of Bergen (UiB.)

Over the past few years, Ke and his colleagues in a research group lead by Professor Karl-Henning Kalland have tested thousands of small molecules in the cancer’s stem cells and examined how they affect the signaling pathways in the cells, according to information from the University of Bergen.

Some of these small molecules are drugs approved by the United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and others were purified from Chinese herbs, which the researchers received from partners in Shanghai, the university notes.

“Traditional Chinese medicine is based on 5,000 years of trial and error. Through this process, the Chinese have found the plants with the best medical effects and have discovered new biologically active substances on the way,” explains Ke.

The UiB researchers managed to frame the signaling system that the stem cells use to direct other cells.

“These mechanisms are more or less the same for several types of cancer, such as prostate cancer, colorectal cancer and breast cancer,” according to Ke.

One of the main challenges for the existing therapies and medicines used to treat tumors is that some tumors may grow and spread repeatedly. Another problem is that some cancer cells become drug resistant. Ke has found cancers resilient enough to grow outside of the optimal environment, or even without nourishment, the university reports.

Ke and his colleagues are working to create forms of therapy that target both resistant and aggressive cells, to prevent these from growing back and spreading again.

Source: University of Bergen