Stem cells in Cancer – the current understanding

Dr. Weeks’ Comment:   there are stem cells and then there are stem cells.  Terminology can confuse until we define our terms.  Read on but bear in mind that in 1911  Dr. Beard had clarified all this and was applying it clinically to eradicate cancer  –  see



Role of stem cells in cancer therapy and cancer stem cells: a review

Jayesh Sagar1,2*Boussad Chaib2Kevin Sales2Marc Winslet1,2 and Alexander Seifalian1,2

Cancer Cell International 2007, 7:9 doi:10.1186/1475-2867-7-9
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This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


For over 30 years, stem cells have been used in the replenishment of blood and immune systems damaged by the cancer cells or during treatment of cancer by chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Apart from their use in the immuno-reconstitution, the stem cells have been reported to contribute in the tissue regeneration and as delivery vehicles in the cancer treatments. The recent concept of ‘cancer stem cells’ has directed scientific communities towards a different wide new area of research field and possible potential future treatment modalities for the cancer. Aim of this review is primarily focus on the recent developments in the use of the stem cells in the cancer treatments, then to discuss the cancer stem cells, now considered as backbone in the development of the cancer; and their role in carcinogenesis and their implications in the development of possible new cancer treatment options in future.


Cancer is the most common cause of mortality and morbidity in U.K. Despite recent advances in the treatments of cancer, the clinical outcome is yet far away from expectation. Use of stem cells in immuno-modulation or reconstitution is one of the methods used for decades in cancer therapy. Stem cells have self-renewal capacity with highly replicative potential in multilineage differentiation capacity [1].

Stem cells can be divided into main three categories: embryonic, germinal, and somatic. Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) originate from the inner cell mass of the blastocyst. ESCs are omnipotent and have indefinite replicative life span, which is attributable to their telomerase expression[2]. Germinal stem cells are derived from primary germinal layers of embryo. They differentiate into progenitor cells to produce specific organ cells. Somatic/adult stem cells are progenitor cells as they are less totipotent i.e. less replicative life span than ESCs. They exist in mature tissues such as haematopoietic, neural, gastrointestinal and mesenchymal tissues. The most commonly used adult stem cells (ASCs) derived from bone marrow are haemopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and other primitive progenitor cells including mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and multipotent adult progenitor cells (MAPCs)[3,4] The microRNAs expression has been reported as a requisite to bypass G1/S checkpoint, thus for the self-renewal characteristic of stem cells[5]. Figure 1 shows hierarchy of stem cells with cell determination and differentiation. In this review, we highlight the potential of the adult stem cells in the cancer treatment and also focus on the new concept of the cancer stem cell.

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