Stem cells and cancer - Introduction

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For more than 50 years, few scientists believe that a small population ofmalignant stemcells can cause cancer. Today the cancer stem cells hypothesis is shared by a growing number of investigators and the study of stemcells is shedding light on cancer research. Firstly isolated from acute myeloid leukaemia and breast carcinoma, cancer stem cells have been reported in tumors of the brain, prostate, colon, pancreas, ovary, lung, bladder, head and neck, melanoma, sarcoma, and various blood cancers. Major characteristics of cancer stem cells are described to be the ability to self-renew and the ability to give rise to a heterogeneous progeny of cancer cells which constitute the tumor. This field of research opens new avenues for treating the cancers since if stem cells are eradicated, the rest of the tumor may die off. Cancer stem cells may potentially account for relapse after years of remission and also be responsible for secondary tumors which may be the result of stem cells escaping from a primary tumor. The symposium organised today reviews the last discoveries in the field and cancer stem cells research leaders in the world will present their last findings and discuss the future development of cancer stem cell biology.

Prof. Nicole LE DOUARIN

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