A new paper by research scientists at the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center focuses on cancer stem cells:
the research team demonstrates that the sugar molecule, made by an enzyme known as GnT-V, regulates the development of a particular subset of cancerous cells known as cancer stem cells.
Much like normal stem cells that sustain organs and tissues, cancer stem cells can self-renew, and their cellular offspring clump together to form tumors. Conventional treatments like surgery, chemotherapy or radiation may reduce overall tumor size, but if they do not kill the cancer stem cells, the disease is likely to return.
"You can think of it like a colony of ants," said Michael Pierce, director of UGA's Cancer Center, Mudter Professor in Cancer Research in UGA's Complex Carbohydrate Research Center and principal investigator for the study. "You can kill the ants in the mound, but if you don't get the queen, they will come back."
Their discovery paves the way for new cancer treatment methods specifically designed to inhibit GnT-V, which, when combined with other treatments, may help prevent disease recurrence.
While their study focused particularly on colorectal cancers, the researchers hope their discovery may one day work for a variety of cancer types.
"This is a rapidly growing field within the cancer research community," said Pierce, who is also a Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in UGA's Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "We want to know what makes these cancer stem cells unique and what we need to do in order to target them specifically so we can develop new treatments and save lives."
Great work by some of our best. Congratulations to Pierce and his team. Continued good results on this important work.