A research team from the Danish Cancer Society, Copenhagen University, the University of Aarhus and Rigshospitalet, headed by Professor Julio Celis, has made a breakthrough in breast cancer research by identifying cells in breast cancer tissue which could be the cause of the disease. Julio Celis, who is currently at a cancer conference in Barcelona, where the results have attracted great attention, says:
"We have probably located those cells which are the origin of new cancer cells. All these cells have a bit of stem cell-like character, and that is our proof they originate from cancer cells that behave like stem cells."
In contrast to normal stem cells that produce healthy new breast cells, there are only a few cancer stem cells, but they can divide infinitely and so be the source of a flood of new and different cancer cells.
José Moreira of the Danish Cancer Society says: "Our results help us to better understand the biology of the disease, and now we will start mapping how the cells behave and differ from ordinary cancer cells." In the long term, the results could have significant influence on the treatment of breast cancer.
"If you look at the disease as a tree, we have so far been treating the crown and the trunk, while it is harder to control the root. When we can identify the cancer stem cells, we will be able to make a better diagnosis, develop new drugs and target the treatment to the individual patient. So what will happen to the disease, is what happens to a tree that is pulled out by its roots," says Julio Cellis.
The news was reported by national daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten.