Cancer

Why do so many cancers come back after aggressive medical treatments? Could radiation and chemotherapy be targeting the wrong cells? McGowan Institute cancer researchers have found that some cancer cells are churned out by their own diabolical kind of stem cells.

Cancer

Modern chemotherapy is based on the idea that you can kill cancer by attacking rapidly dividing cells that are cancer's hallmark. But stem cells don't divide rapidly. They slowly spin off new generations of cells, and these are the fast reproducers. By killing the progeny of stem cells, chemotherapy may be destroying the bulk of the tumor while leaving the stem cells relatively unharmed — and still churning out tumor-building descendants.

Our research may result in new treatments that kill a cancer's stem cells. While a stem cell-directed therapy might leave the bulk of the tumor unharmed, the surviving cells would die off slowly by natural attrition, and no new ones would grow.

Other McGowan Institute researchers are exploring the use of stem cells derived from a patient's own fat for breast reconstruction after cancer surgery.

Additional Resources

How Do I Get Treatment?
Physicians are not yet targeting cancer stem cells with treatments, but expert cancer care is available at UPMC Cancer Centers.

The "Darth Vader" of Stem Cells
Embryonic stem cells build the body's tissues. Adult stem cells maintain them. But cancer stem cells build tumors — and researchers and philanthropists are joining forces to fight them. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,
June 20, 2005.

©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com