Cells which trigger bowel cancer identified?

December 21, 2008

(ChattahBox) — Scientists want to know what event causes a normal, healthy bowel cell to turn cancerous and start to form tumors. Bowel Cancer is one of the most common cancers and can be hard to treat because it is often diagnosed late. UK and Dutch researchers hunting for the cells which trigger bowel cancer found that genetic damage inflicted on stem cells from the intestines of mice, resulted in a speedy transformation into fast-growing tumors.

Researcher Beatson Institute in Glasgow, Cardiff University, and the Hubrecht Institute in the Netherlands, reported in the journal Nature, that the isolated intestinal stem cells in mice, “knocked out” a specific gene called APC from them.

The APC gene is described as a “tumor suppressor gene” and plays a role in regulating the way a cell divides.

Within days, the stem cell populations had started to form tumors. When the same technique was applied to non-stem cell “daughter” cells, far fewer tumors were formed.

This points the finger clearly at stem cells as a primary source of bowel cancer changes.

Professor Hans Clevers, from the Hubrecht Institute, said: “We are very excited by these findings but we need to establish whether the stem cells will behave the same way in human cancers as they do in mice.”

Dr Owen Sansom, from the Beatson Institute, added: “We are now looking to understand how we can use these results to seek out and destroy stem cells that are lacking the APC gene.”


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