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Breast cancer may not originate from stem cells

3rd September 2010

A new study has suggested that some breast cancer tumours may not originate from stem cells as previously believed.

stem cell research

The findings, published in the journal Cell Stem Cell has been hailed as an important step in the development of treatments for these cancers.

It has been believed for some time by scientists that most breast cancers originated from basal stem cells.

But research carried out at the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Centres in London has now indicated that may not be the case.

Scientists compared mice expressing mutant versions of the BRCA1 gene, which is known to cause breast cancer, in different breast cell types.

The research team discovered that BRCA1 tumours actually come from progenitor cells, which can only differentiate into a single tissue type.

Matthew Smalley, a mammary cell biologist at the centre, said: “Understanding the origins of these types of breast cancer is not only critical for developing preventative strategies against the disease but also for developing new targeted therapies.”

Experts at the centre will now continue to study how these and other tumours form, and what features they have in common with their origin cells, as a possible target for therapeutics.

Smalley added: “If we can identify molecular features which these tumours have in common with the cells which we now know they originate from we will have identified key aspects of the biology of these cancers which, when disrupted, will have therapeutic benefit."

The work builds on previous discoveries by a team from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research.

 

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