Expert Max S. Wicha Here is some good news for scientists trying to lay hands on a means of destroying breast cancer stem cells. A groundbreaking research led by the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center has found a probable indirect way to attack the small number of breast cancer stem cells in a tumor that promote growth and spread of the disease. It was suggested that blocking cytokine signals may offer a more effective treatment for breast cancer.

While conducting the investigation, it was pointed out that breast cancer stem cells are controlled by mesenchymal stem cells. Experts believe that these cells from the bone marrow allow the cancer to create a ‘niche’ for the cancer stem cells. Such a process seemingly empowers the cells to replicate. Indirectly blocking these signals from the niche can supposedly help in attacking breast cancer stem cells. The cancer stem cell niche appears as a type of microenvironment that is strongly linked with tumor growth and metastasis.

On scrutinizing mesenchymal stem cells, researchers noted that breast cancers in mice sent out signals. These signals possibly attracted mesenchymal stem cells from the bone marrow into the tumor where these cells interacted and stimulated the growth of breast cancer stem cells. Two signals from a cytokine network were allegedly observed that are involved in stem cell regulation. These cytokines may also be responsible for inflammation. Max S. Wicha, M.D., Distinguished Professor of Oncology, director of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center and lead investigator and colleagues conclude that blocking cytokine signals can successfully target the cancer stem cell population and help tackle breast cancer.

The research is published in the January 15 issue of Cancer Research.