The discovery of breast cancer stem cells several years ago opened new avenues of breast cancer research, both in regards to possible breast cancer treatment and breast cancer outcomes. It has been suggested that these breast cancer stem cells drive tumor formation, metastasis, and breast cancer recurrence. Furthermore, research since the initial identification of breast cancer stem cells has shown these cells to be relatively resistant to breast cancer treatments and capable of self-renewal.
Shanghai researchers recently evaluated the scientific literature on breast cancer stem cells in order to better understand the link between breast cancer stem cells and breast cancer outcomes. For their analysis, these breast cancer researchers evaluated 12 breast cancer studies that included 898 breast cancer cases and nearly 1,900 control patients. The study investigators reported that
Breast cancer stem cells, especially those with the ALDH1 marker, were linked to high histological grade, absence of both estrogen and progesterone receptors, and the presence of HER2.
The risk for poor overall survival was increased by nearly 3-fold in patients with breast cancer stem cells containing the ALDH1 marker.
Presence of the CD44+/CD24-/low marker on breast cancer stem cells was linked to more than a 2-fold increased risk for poor overall survival.
This evaluation of the science on breast cancer stem cells shows us that the presence of breast cancer stem cells, particularly those with the ALDH1 marker, decreases one's chances for survival. This is likely to be due to the link shown in this study between ALDH1 breast cancer stem cells and breast cancers with more aggressive characteristics. Overall, this study confirms the importance of breast cancer stem cells and the need to develop personalized breast cancer treatments designed to eradicate these breast cancer stem cells. Previous research studies in the last year have shown that a number of natural and pharmaceutical breast cancer treatments might kill breast cancer stem cells. Continued research, especially human clinical trials, are important to the future development of these types of breast cancer treatments.