Cancer is really a stem cell disease, argue George Murphy and Malcolm R Alison
- By: George Murphy, Malcolm R Alison
“Mrs Smith, I'm afraid you have cancer.” The words die on your lips as you wait to see how she reacts-a bolt from the blue or just official confirmation of a long nursed suspicion? She's petrified-no diagnosis scares her more, with some justification: one in four Europeans will die of some form of cancer, despite mean five year survival rates of more than 45%.w1 But what if you could treat cancer, any cancer, as simply and effectively as a bacterial infection? Such a world may be closer than you think, and is coming from a surprising direction-stem cells.
Tissues such as the gut epithelium and skin are constantly regenerated from tissue specific stem cells. Moreover, even those tissues which are not routinely renewed, such as neurones, appear to have previously unrecognised populations of stem cells that may be involved in maintenance and repair.w2
So, human tissues are not static collections