Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Reverting tumour cells to cancer stem cells on a gel network

10 May 2021

Stem the Flow

If you snip just the sprouting head off an invasive weed in your garden, it’ll grow back with a vengeance. Countering cancer can be the same, because of cancer stem cells: resistant, hard to spot cells with the potential to flourish into fresh tumours. These are a major target for anti-cancer drugs, but occur in small numbers so are hard to find and tackle. Researchers have now made a gel, composed of a network of chemicals and water, that encourages cancer cells to revert back to these stem cells. Cancer cells placed on the gel formed spherical structures (video, brain cancer cells) and produced molecules associated with cancer stem cells. The study then looked at this population of stem cells, identifying their properties and trialling new treatments, suggesting the gel could be used to help develop personalised treatments for particular cancers, and cut cancer off at the root.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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