Attacking bowel cancer on two fronts

March 31, 2011, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council

Stem cells in the intestine, which when they mutate can lead to bowel cancers, might also be grown into transplant tissues to combat the effects of those same cancers, the UK National Stem Cell Network (UKNSCN) annual science meeting will hear today.

Professor Nick Barker of the Institute of Medical Biology in Singapore will explain how he and his team identified that the which are crucial to maintaining a healthy are also the site at which bowel cancers first begin, and how he also hopes to use healthy stem cells to regenerate tissues to help patients with Crohn's disease and some cancers.

Having discovered a gene that is only turned on in these particular stem cells Professor Barker and his team have been able to isolate the cells in mice and grow small pieces of intestine in the lab. The researchers hope that if they are able to grow larger pieces, they will be able to produce transplant tissues to replace damaged intestines.

Professor Barker explains: "Processing our dinner every day is a tough job so the lining of our intestines quickly get worn out. To keep the intestine working stem cells in little pockets along the surface replace the lining, cell by cell, about once a week.

"We already knew these stem cells existed for a while we didn't know much about them because it was difficult to distinguish them from all of the other types of cells in our intestines. Our team was able to single them out and study them because we discovered a gene that is only turned on in these particular stem cells."

Once the researchers had found this gene they were able to track where the stem cells occur throughout the body finding that, as well as the intestine, the stomach lining and in hair follicles, the cells were also present in bowel tumours.

Professor Barker continues: "We hope that studying these stem cells will be doubly useful: One day we hope to grow large enough pieces in the lab to form for transplant; and by studying the cells we will be able to find new ways to prevent them from mutating and hence leading to cancer.

" is the third most common type of cancer in England and an estimated 38,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. We know these stem cells are both implicated in causing the cancer but that they also could be useful for treating disease so we hope that studying them will help us to understand how to attack the disease on two fronts.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Researchers discover novel mechanism linking changes in mitochondria to cancer cell death

February 20, 2018
To stop the spread of cancer, cancer cells must die. Unfortunately, many types of cancer cells seem to use innate mechanisms that block cancer cell death, therefore allowing the cancer to metastasize. While seeking to further ...

Stem cell vaccine immunizes lab mice against multiple cancers

February 15, 2018
Stanford University researchers report that injecting mice with inactivated induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) launched a strong immune response against breast, lung, and skin cancers. The vaccine also prevented relapses ...

Induced pluripotent stem cells could serve as cancer vaccine, researchers say

February 15, 2018
Induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, are a keystone of regenerative medicine. Outside the body, they can be coaxed to become many different types of cells and tissues that can help repair damage due to trauma or ...

Team paves the way to the use of immunotherapy to treat aggressive colon tumors

February 15, 2018
In a short space of time, immunotherapy against cancer cells has become a powerful approach to treat cancers such as melanoma and lung cancer. However, to date, most colon tumours appeared to be unresponsive to this kind ...

Can our genes help predict how women respond to ovarian cancer treatment?

February 15, 2018
Research has identified gene variants that play a significant role in how women with ovarian cancer process chemotherapy.

First comparison of common breast cancer tests finds varied accuracy of predictions

February 15, 2018
Commercially-available prognostic breast cancer tests show significant variation in their abilities to predict disease recurrence, according to a study led by Queen Mary University of London of nearly 800 postmenopausal women.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.