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Format: 04/18/2014
Format: 04/18/2014


KDKA-TV: Doctor Looking At New Way To Treat Cancer Reporting

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Can standard cancer treatments unintentionally result in harm?

This provocative thought is being presented in Pittsburgh by the founder of the University of Michigan's Comprehensive Cancer Center.

"There are cells within cancers that are highly resistant to these treatments, and these are the cancer stem cells," says Dr. Max Wicha.

He says the disease returns after aggressive treatment because dying tumor cells send off chemical signals that awaken immature, sleeping cells with the potential for malignancy.

"We can kill the other cells in a cancer with chemotherapy," added Dr. Wicha. "What we can't do right now is kill the cancer stem cells."

Standard treatments like chemo and radiation kill rapidly dividing cancer cells, but Dr. Wicha says the stem cells are slower growing and escape.

In his research, he is testing whether blocking the chemical signals to the stem cells, along with the usual chemotherapy helps.

"The key will be whether that will translate to the women doing better, so ultimately we have to do much larger clinical trials to actually confirm whether knocking down the stem cells will make women live longer. That's the real bottom line," says Dr. Wicha.

What he wouldn't want is for the treatments he's testing to hurt the body's normal stem cells in the intestines and bone marrow.

If his work stands the test of clinical trials, it has the potential to change how cancer is treated. For now, doctors stand by chemo, radiation, hormones and immune proteins.

"It's not as if our standard treatments have no benefit. And I think an approach to eradicate stem cells is going to be an additional treatment to the ones we already have," said Dr. Jane Raymond, a cancer specialist at Allegheny General Hospital.

To read more, visi the KDKA website.

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