New gene breakthrough brings colon cancer cure closer to reality

ANI| Updated: Dec 02, 2013, 13:36 PM IST

Washington: Researchers have discovered a promising new approach to treating colorectal cancer by disarming the gene that drives self-renewal in stem cells that are the root cause of disease, resistance to treatment and relapse.

"This is the first step toward clinically applying the principles of cancer stem cell biology to control cancer growth and advance the development of durable cures," principal investigator Dr. John Dick from Princess Margaret Cancer Centre said.

In pre-clinical experiments, the research team replicated human colon cancer in mice to determine if specifically targeting the stem cells was clinically relevant.

First, the researchers identified that the gene BMI-1, already implicated in maintaining stem cells in other cancers, is the pivotal regulator of colon cancer stem cells and drives the cycle of self-renewal, proliferation and cell survival.

Next, the team used an existing small-molecule inhibitor to successfully block BMI-1, thus demonstrating the clinical relevance of this approach.

"Inhibiting a recognized regulator of self-renewal is an effective approach to control tumour growth, providing strong evidence for the clinical relevance of self-renewal as a biological process for therapeutic targeting," lead author Dr. Antonija Kreso said.

The study is published in Nature Medicine.