Stem cells are among the most energetically activated, migratory plus proliferative sub-populations of tumour cells, according to observations simply by scholars at the Biomedical Research Centre at the University associated with Salford.

Cancerous stem tissues are often left behind after chemotherapy with the potential to create brand new tumours — a process called recurrence and metastasis.

In research published in the journal Oncotarget , the Salford team conclude that come cell characteristics and behaviour are instrumental in metastasis and believe the key to their reactivation is an enzyme known as Telomerase, or hTERT.

Using lung, breasts and ovarian cancer cells, the team set out to recognize which cells are cancerous by their levels of Telomerase, a good enzyme which endows cells with the ability to multiply.

To achieve this, they followed Telomerase activity with a fluorescent proteins, GFP, more commonly found in jellyfish, effectively colouring each tissue to mark it either ‘active’ or ‘inactive’.

Cells highlighted ‘fluorescent’ (hTERT-high) were found to become up to 15 times more active than others by having an vastly increased capacity for migration and cell proliferation.

Michael Lisanti, Professor of Translational Medicine in the University of Salford said: “We reasoned that if we’re able to spot the telomerase activity, we could identify which tissues were cancerous.

“What we had not anticipated was to find the very rapid rate of proliferation from the cancer stem cells.

“Clearly, this contradicts the accepted view that stem cells do not increase, grow quickly, and offers an alternative view of the process of metastasis, plus moreover, a method of identifying, isolating and potentially killing tumour-forming cells. ”

As part of the study, the group found that FDA-approved drugs, such as doxycycline and palbociclib, were effective at halting cancer stem cell propagation. Palbociclib blocks the activity of proteins known as cyclin-dependent kinases (CDK) and inhibits the division of cancer cells, yet until now hadn’t been shown to effectively block cancer come cell reproduction.

“The use of these FDA-approved drugs may provide a mechanism for treating metastatic condition on a larger scale and certainly opens the way for brand spanking new Phase II clinical trials in multiple cancer varieties, ” adds Professor Lisanti.

Dr Federica Sotgia, Reader of Translational Medicine at the University associated with Salford said: “We can now begin to think of cancer originate cells as being at the heart of tumour regrowth and turn the efforts away from ‘bulk cancer cells’, which don’t actually drive tumour recurrence and metastasis. ”

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