Researchers from The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, have noticed in their studies that pre operative preliminary cancer therapies, such as chemo therapy or radiation therapy increases the cancer stem cells in the bone marrow. This findings will be presented in an presentation at the upcoming American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting.
This new study is the first of its kind where prospective study is initiated to investigate the presence of breast cancer stem cells of primary breast cancer patients. The results suggest the need for additional biological therapies, as well as a potential and promising new direction for the study of micro-metastasis.
According to James Reuben, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Hematopathology and the first author of the study, at least 30-40 percent of breast cancer patients who appear disease-free after preliminary cancer therapies, usually chemotherapy treatment actually harbor undetectable, distant micro-metastasis.
Metastasis is transfer of disease from one organ or part of the body to another which may not be directly connected with it. All malignant tumors are capable of metastasizing.
Cancer stem cells as tumor cells found in the bone marrow that are capable of self-renewal, thus a potential catalyst for recurrence and metastasis.
Cancer stem cells have been described in previous preclinical models, but before now, have been extremely difficult to detect and characterize in cancer patients.
Researchers claimed that this research showed a higher presence of cancer stem cells correlated with more advanced disease, suggesting that they may one day be a prognostic factor for identifying those at greatest risk for metastasis and recurrence.
In the present study researchers used multi- color flow cytometry methods to detect multiple markers and receptors on the surface of cells. The research indicates cancer cells positive resilience and lack of sensitivity to chemotherapy. They also suggest that Notch signaling may play an integral role in the development of breast cancer stem cells, as level of Notch-1 was lower in neoadjuvant treated patients and inversely correlated between the level of its expression and the percentage of breast cancer stem cells.
Researchers are looking forward to determine the true relationship between cancer stem cells, progression- and disease-free survival in breast cancer patients.