Scientists have identified a population of human colon cancer stem cells that can initiate tumor growth and differentiate into mature tumors, according to two reports in Nature. Two groups, working independently, showed that a subpopulation of CD133+ cells within the tumor, representing just a small fraction of the overall cancer mass, behave as cancer-initiating cells, with the ability to maintain themselves in culture in an undifferentiated state, initiate tumor growth after xenotransplantation in mice, and differentiate into cancers that are phenotypically indistinguishable from the original human tumor. "This is for me a really exciting set of reports," said Jeremy Rich, associate professor of medicine at Duke University in Durham, NC, who was not involved with either study. "The way they used the same marker to prospectively identify the cancer stem cells...really suggests that there's a lot of commonalities between these cancers, and that's important because the lessons we...

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