Drugs target cancer stem cells

New compounds are showing promise in targeting subpopulations of cancer stem cells.

By | June 6, 2011

Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor of the breastWORLD OF JOURNAL OF SURGICAL ONCOLOGY

Stem cells make treating some cancers tricky by evading traditional radiotherapy or chemotherapy leading to recurrent tumor growth. But new pharmaceutical compounds are showing promise in targeting subpopulations of cancer stem cells in some breast cancer and leukemia patients. Though results are preliminary, studies are showing the effectiveness of drugs targeting the Jak2/Stat3 cell growth pathways that play roles in the proliferation of stem cell-like tumor cells. Clinical trials testing compounds that inhibit the Jak2/Stat3 pathways in leukemia are already in progress, and a paper published in current issue of Cell Stem Cell suggests that inhibiting other molecular targets, Bmi1 and Hoxa9, active in stem cell-producing pathways can help shut off tumor growth in some mouse models of leukemia and in human patients. Another recent paper, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, found that inhibition of the Jak2/Stat3 pathways in mice can knockout pesky breast cancer cells that behave like stem cells and can survive standard treatments. A clinical trial of one of the drugs that targeted the production of breast cancer stem cells is set to start later this year.

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