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Format: 04/17/2014
Format: 04/17/2014

News

KDKA-TV: Top Oncologist To Share View On Cancer Treatment

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

The director of the University of Michigan Cancer Center will speak on the University of Pittsburgh's campus Wednesday about his ideas of current cancer treatments.

Dr. Max Wicha says in some cases, chemotherapy and radiation clearly help, but he also believes something else needs to be added.

"Within the cancer, there are the small percentage of cells that are really fueling and driving the cancer and these cells have properties very similar to normal stem cells," he told KDKA-TV's David Highfield during a telephone interview.

In a clip posted online, Dr. Wicha explains how those stem cells survive current treatment.

"Cancer stem cells are quite resistant to most of the treatments that we use like chemotherapy and radiation therapy," he said. "This explains why many of those treatments are able to cause cancers to shrink down but don't cure those cancers."

In fact, he believes the treatments can actually spark the stem cells to bring back cancer.

"When breast cancers are treated with chemotherapy that these 95 to 99 percent of the cells that are dying release factors that essentially signal the cancer stem cells to reproduce," Wicha said.

Dr. Charles Geyer is vice chair of the department of human oncology at Allegheny General Hospital.

"Patients should continue to take the therapies that we know do provide some benefit," he said.

"We know these drugs provide some degree of benefit," he added. "What we want is drugs that cure the cancer. Right now, we have drugs that sometimes cure more often times slow it down, delay it."

Some still question whether cancer stem cells really exist. But Dr. Wicha says he's seen very promising results in a recent trial with breast cancer patients who had chemotherapy but were also given something to kill those cancer stem cells.

He hopes one day cancer treatments won't even include chemotherapy.
 

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