Indian-led study to revolutionize cancer treatment

January 6th, 2009 - 2:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Toronto, Jan 6 (IANS) A team of Canadian researchers, led by Mick Bhatia of McMaster University near here, have found a way to identify malignant stem cells in cancer patients so that healthy cells are not destroyed during treatment.Till now, cancer treatments have faced the difficulty of destroying malignant cells without killing healthy cells in the process.

But Bhatia, who is scientific director of the McMaster Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute at the university, and his team of investigators have demonstrated for the first time the difference between normal stem cells and cancer stem cells in humans.

This new insight will revolutionize cancer treatment by helping scientists to develop therapies and drugs that more carefully target cancer cells, while sparing normal healthy cells.

“Normal stem cells and cancer stem cells are hard to tell apart, and many have misconstrued really good stem cells for cancer stem cells that have gone bad - we now can tell the ones masquerading as normal stem cells from the bad, cancerous ones,” Bhatia was quoted as saying in a McMaster University statement.

Without elaborating the new technique, Bhatia said: “This allows us to compare normal versus cancer stem cells from humans in the laboratory - define the differences in terms of genes they express and drugs they respond to.

“Essentially, we can now use this to find the `magic bullet’, a drug or set of drugs that kill cancer stem cells first, and spare the normal healthy ones.”

Bhatia said: “McMaster University is uniquely positioned for this discovery platform, and this was the missing ingredient - we have one of the best screening/robotic platforms, chemical libraries.Now we can combine it all. This team now aims to kill cancer.”

Bhatia’s research would provide a model to discover drugs using robotic screening for available molecules that may have untapped potential to eradicate cancer.

It could eventually lead to customization of cancer treatments for individual patients.

The study was published in the journal Nature Biotechnology Monday.

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