Basal cell cancer from STEM cells

Dr. Weeks’ Comment:  Cancer STEM cells are the real target and now, for the first time we see how basal cell skin cancer derives from STEM cells.



 Basal Cell Carcinoma  – from skin STEM cells


Invasive basal cell carcinoma arises only from epidermal STEM cells, a new and exciting finding according to a study published in Nature this week.

The  “cell of origin” for basal cell carcinoma (BCC) in a mouse model is a stem cell. This is big news.  Conventional cancer treatment (chemotherapy and radiation) kill only cancer TUMOR cells while making the lethal cancer STEM cells  “more numbers and more virulent”. So you need  to ask your oncologist this question: “Dr. please explain to me what your proposed treatment will do to my lethal cancer STEM cells.”

With death, epidermal cells are replaced by cells which renew the skin – also known as progenitor cells, and these are more determined – rigidified, AKA differentiated than the stem cells – their parents. What is new from this study (reference below) is that basal cell cancer arises from both progenitor cells and more significantly, from stem cells.

“We consider the identification of the stem cells as the cells of origin of basal cell carcinoma [to be] a key finding, and that the understanding of the cellular dynamics leading to tumor initiation will allow us to better design new treatments for basal cell carcinoma,” reported Dr. Cedric Blanpain, MD, PhD,  – co author of the study  in an email to Cancer Therapy Advisor.

Co-author Benjamin Simons, PhD, reported “A gradual reduction in the proliferation rate allied with an increase in the apoptosis rate, however, leads to an arrest of progenitor cell-derived lesions in a dysplastic state.“ As regards future therapy – Dr. Simons continues: “We believe that insights into early diagnosis and novel treatment strategies may be found by targeting the earliest phase of disease initiation and progression.

The take home message is that the future of cancer treatment is to address the cancer STEM cells and that safe and effective anti-inflammatory agents hold the brightest promise!




  1. Sanchez-Danes A, Hannezo E, Larismont JC, Liagre M, Youssef KK, Simons B, Blanpain C. 2016. Defining the clonal dynamics leading to mouse skin tumour initiation. Nature. 08 Jul 2016. doi: 10.1038/nature19069 [Epub ahead of print]
  2. Basset-Seguin N, Hauschild A, Grob JJ, et al. Vismodegib in patients with advanced basal cell carcinoma (STEVIE): a pre-planned interim analysis of an international, open-label trial. Lancet Oncol. 13 May 2015. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(15)70198-1 [Epub ahead of print]

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