Scientists identify new cancer stem cell mechanism

Scientists at Queen Mary, University of London have uncovered a link between two genes that shows how stem cells could develop into cancer.

The study found a novel mechanism that could be the catalyst for stem cells changing into a tumor (PLOS One, June 27, 2012).

"It was quite an unexpected discovery," said lead researcher Ahmad Waseem, PhD, a reader in oral dentistry at Queen Mary, University of London. "We set out to investigate the role of the stem cell gene Keratin K15, which was thought to be a biomarker for normal stem cells. Through our research, we discovered there was a link between K15 and the notorious cancer gene FOXM1. We found FOXM1 could target K15 to induce cancer formation."

Cancer develops when there is a problem with stem cells, the cells that carry out internal repairs throughout the human body. The loss of stem cell function leads to uncontrolled growth, which ultimately develops into a tumor.

The team went through a process in which they used extremely sensitive cell and molecular approaches to establish this link.

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