Dr. Weeks’ Comment: This is a superficial but essentially accurate rendering of the role of cancer STEM cells. In 2014, I gave a lecture “Cancer STEM cells – Under the Radar” which clarified that cancer TUMOR cells – the target of chemotherapy and radiation therapy are much less dangerous than the stealth cancer STEM cells – the only cells which metastasize and which are made “more numerous and more virulent” by conventional cancer care.
Cancer ‘Invisible’ to the Immune System
Wednesday, 15 Apr 2015 04:07 PM
Many years ago, when I was studying cancer in medical school, it occurred to me that cancer acted very much like a parasite, living off of its host. I noticed that cancer cells used many of the host’s biochemical systems to grow and spread.
The cancers also utilized a number of mechanisms to keep the host’s body from rejecting them. At the time such a theory was unheard of, but today many other scientists share this idea.
This does not mean that cancer is actually a parasite that crawls into your body like a worm. It’s just to say that cancer acts somewhat like that worm once it is in the body.
As you learn the intricacies of cancer, you begin to appreciate that cancer cells anticipate all of the methods the body can use to kill them, and devise methods to either neutralize those mechanisms or evade them.
For example, each cell in the body has a “suicide” gene that lies dormant in its genetic structure. Should the cell become damaged by something like free radicals, this dormant suicide gene (called the p53 gene) wakes up and activates a series of chemical reactions that ultimately kill the cell.
The purpose of this system is to keep the cell from becoming a cancer. More than half of all cancer cells have been found to have damaged (that is, mutated) p53 suicide genes.
The rest of the cells probably have some kind of impaired function. It is the cancer stem cell that does this dirty work.
Another way cancer stem cells protect the cancer is to make them invisible to the immune system. Normally, the immune system sends special cells around the body to look for cells that are dangerously close to becoming or have become cancer stem cells. Once found they find one of these cells, their job is to kill it.
But cancer stem cells have a special mechanism that makes them invisible to the immune system. This “cloaking” is actually a process the cancer stem cell hijacks from the body’s normal protective immune responses.
With the body’s recognition system essentially turned off, the immune cells simply never see the cancer.