[extropy-chat] Arresting Stem Cells May Trump Tumor Shrinkage in Rating Cancer Treatments, Researcher Says

Robert Bradbury robert.bradbury at gmail.com
Tue Mar 20 12:30:40 UTC 2007

I've read a paper or two on this and the idea has merit.  Open to question
is whether one has a stem cell gone bad or whether one has a cancer cell
activating stem cell genes.  As an interesting aside, I just looked at the
genes in the cancer genome anatomy project and it looks like they are
tracking 1519 genes (these are the genes found to be mutated in vivo in
cancers).  Of course the common culprits, KRAS, BRAF, HRAS, EGFR, APC, KIT,
RB, FGFR, are among the top 20 in terms of number of different mutations
(presumably they have more locations which can be disrupted and result in
uncontrolled growth).  Though the recent Nature on work by the project
(Greenman et al 2007) felt that there were 120 kinase genes that served as
"drivers" for the development of cancers [1].

The problem with the stem cell theory, in spite of what the cited article
says, is that it doesn't provide you with many new therapy options.  Many
chemotherapeutic agents are designed to disrupt stem cell division (which is
why you have side effects like nausea (stomach and intestinal stem cell
disruption), hair loss (hair stem cell disruption), decline in blood cell
counts (bone marrow stem cell disruption), etc.  If anything it suggests
that one will need more intense, or longer, chemotherapies to kill off all
of the stem cells.

The only way out of this is going to be more complex targeted chemotherapies
designed to seek out and kill specific types of stem cells (some of which
people are labeling as "nanomedicine" -- presumably to attract funding).
Those are coming but they are going to take some time and they aren't going
to be cheap magic bullets.


1. Though the numbers are large, the good side of this is that we do have
current technologies to design chips that would be able to rapidly survey
this number of genes and determine precisely which are mutated.  This in
turn allows one to develop targeted therapies.  But there are very few
physicians currently equipped to do these types of tests and use the
resulting information productively.
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