Scientists identify cancer stem cells

Hong Kong: Hong Kong scientists say they
have identified the cancer stem cells responsible for the
spread of colorectal cancer to other organs and believe the
find will revolutionise treatment.

Current treatments regard all cancer cells as alike, but
the Hong Kong University researchers discovered that cancers
contain a small number of stem cells responsible for starting
and maintaining tumours.

"It will revolutionise the approach to cancer treatment
in future," one researcher, Ronnie Poon, told the South China
Morning Post.

"If you just target mature cancer cells, you are not
targeting the roots of the disease. What the industry needs to
work on now is drugs that will target cancer stem cells," the
professor of surgery said.

The spread of colorectal cancer to other organs is
usually fatal. The cancer is one of the most common in both
men and women and kills around 50,000 people a year in the
United States, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The ground-breaking research will help doctors to predict
patients whose cancers are liable to spread and help
development of treatments to specifically target the cancer
stem cells, called CD26+, which are more resistant to
conventional treatments than more mature cancer cells.