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The potential of the prostate cancer stem cell

Posted Nov 08 2010 12:00am

We have known since 1994 that the recurrence of some types of cancer can be driven by cancer- specific stem cells (cancerous duplicates of the normal stem cells that we all carry in our bone marrow and our blood stream). Whether this is true of all cancers is definitively not known.

There was an interesting article about cancer stem cells a few days ago by Dr. Siddhartha Mukerjee. It appeared in the New York Times magazine. And a couple of years ago there was a review of the potential of prostate cancer stem cells  by Maitland and Collins in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. 

Specific prostate cancer stem cells certainly exist see for example the article by Wang et al. from 2009 and the review by Shen and Abate-Shen just this year – but whether these (or other) prostate cancer stem cells really hold out the potential suggested by Maitland and Collins, we still don’t know.

There has been an explosion of basic research in this field in recent years, but we still have to learn whether it is possible to develop types of drug therapy that can specifically and selectively target prostate cancer stem cells and that’s long before we will know whether such drugs can actually be used effectively and safely to treat patients.

For those who are interested in the history of cancer therapy, Dr. Mukherjee’s new book ( The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer ) may provide a good education about where we have come from and where we are (possibly) going to in the future. (There’s a review of this new book in The New Yorker.)

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