In cancer studies, a new method holds the potential to boost international research efforts to find drugs to eliminate cancer at its source.
The new method is described in a paper published in the journal Nature Communications.
Physiologically, most cancerous tissues consist rapidly dividing cells with limited capacity for self-renewal. This means the bulk of the cells stop reproducing after divisions a certain number of times. However, cancer stem cells can divide indefinitely to fuel long-term cancer growth and drives relapse too.
Meanwhile, conventional treatments such as chemotherapy is avoided for cancer stem cells. This is because for chemotherapy patients initially enter remission but soon leads to relapse. In fact, for patients of acute leukemia, the high probability of relapse implies less than 15% of elderly patients do not live longer than five years.
On the other hand, cancer stem cells are difficult to separate and undertake their study. This is because cancer stem cells are low in number and have similarity to other stem cells. This hampers international research for cancer stem cells to develop precision treatments that target to destroy malignant cells, and at the same time spare healthy cells.
A research initiative undertaken by a team of researchers at the Center for Genomic Regulation and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory have overcome this problem by creating a new method. Called MutSeq – the new method can be used to distinguish cancer stem cells based on their gene expression and genetics.
“In human physiology, RNA provides critical information for human health. For example, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to detect coronavirus examines its RNA to detect COVID-19. The subsequent sequencing of RNA can detect the virus variant, explains the author of the paper.”