at The University of Texas at Dallas have developed a new technique to isolate
aggressive cells thought to form the root of many hard-to-treat metastasiz0ed
cancers. “Our lab is interested in finding ways to prevent cancer recurrence,”
said Dr. Jiyong Lee, Assistant Professor at the Department of Chemistry and
Biochemistry in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at UT Dallas.
“The problem is, not all cancer cells are equal. There is a small population of
cancer cells that is much more aggressive than others — cancer stem cells,” Lee
said. These lead to secondary tumours, even after the primary tumour has been
successfully treated. The cells are extremely difficult to detect and
eliminate. Lee and his colleagues used a two-step method to plough through an
archive of 40,000 chemical compounds and find any that would attach themselves
to breast-cancer stem cells, in turn, isolating them from standard
breast-cancer cells. The screening led to five compounds, called ligands, that
bind specifically to cancer stem cells. The researchers then chose one for
closer study. Lee said the results showcase the first demonstration of a method
that separates cancer stem cells from other cancer cells.