Researchers have discovered cells that continually replenish leukemia tumors. Killing these infinitely renewing cells could be key to halting the disease. A genetic mutation causes the leukemia cells to divide out of control and allows tumors to grow, according to research published in the Aug. 12 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Previously, no one knew the exact identity of these cells.
Isolating these so-called cancer stem cells paves the way for creation of drugs to target them. Specifically destroying leukemia's stem cells -- the source of the cancer -- could eliminate the disease better than treatments that randomly kill cancer cells. The work provides opportunities for pharmaceutical companies to investigate drugs that could inhibit the development of cancer stem cells, said Irving Weissman, a stem-cell researcher at Stanford who contributed to the study.
News source: Wired.com