The Origin of Cancer and Role of Cancer Stem Cells

Even though there’s been great progress in cancer research, one thing that is doubtful, is- what is the Origin of Cancer and which cells does the cancer originate from?

Cells are the smallest units of living matter. Furthermore, different cell types make up tissues and then there are organs and organ systems, all which together make  up an organism. Similarly, now scientists have found clues that cancer cells are arranged in a similar way. There is a hierarchy of cancer cells.

Discovery of Cancer Stem Cells

In this area of study, scientists have discovered the existence of Cancer Stem Cells (CSCs) which initiate, continue and increase the growth of cancer. The discovery of this cell has caused a clash with the traditional belief that all cancer cells cause tumours to continuously grow. But it just so happens that tumours only contain 1% Cancer Stem Cells, no matter how much the cancer has progressed.

Something to note is that Cancer Stem Cell was hypothesised on the basis of a theory called the clonal theory of cancer initiation.

Read more at the Journal of Genes and Cells: Cancer Stem Cell: A Big Hurdle in Cancer Therapy

Examples of cancers in which Cancer Stem Cells were found:

  1. Breast
  2. Pancreatic
  3. Colorectal cancer
  4. Head and neck cancer 

Now, how are Cancer Stem Cells made?

There are several theories about this. But here, we will study one such idea. Researchers have hypothesised that this conversion occurs when there is de-differentiation of already differentiated cells.

Differentiated Cells

That’s super simple really! Differentiated cells are just cells that have changed into another type of cell. This happens lots of times when a fertilised egg transforms into a complex system of tissues and cell types. That’s how a foetus is formed.

So, now you know that differentiated (normal stem cells) turn into cancer stem cells when they are de-differentiated.

The main focus of this article was to show that cancer stem cells are the smallest units of tumour growth. They are the cells that initiate cancer and also propagate further growth of it. This is an important discovery because it was found that cancer stem cells can be used to treat cancer. More research is required for this information to be applied, but it does hold great potential.

Cite this article as:

Arghiani, N., Matin, M. 2015. Cancer Stem Cell: A Big Hurdle in Cancer Therapy. Journal of Genes and Cells 1(1-2): 1-2. DOI:10.15562/gnc.5

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