A research team from National Taiwan University (NTU) said it has successfully developed a model to cultivate cancer stem cells outside the human body (in vitro) through a “paracrine” mechanism, which may be further developed into medicine for increasing cancer survival rates.
The team — led by NTU president Yang Pan-chyr (楊泮池), NTU Graduate Institute of Toxicology associate professor Chen Huei-Wen (陳惠文) and NTU Graduate Institute of Oncology graduate student Chen Wan-chun (陳莞均) — spent six years to establish the first model of lung cancer stem cell in vitro cultivation.
Yang said through the replication and differentiation of stem cells people can remain active and feel young, but cancer stem cells contribute to the recurrence, metastasis and resistance to drugs of cancers, making it difficult to completely cure cancers.
Chen said through experiments with in vitro cultivation of stem cells, they found that cancer stem cells cannot survive on their own and need carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (CAF) to support their survival.
Successfully creating the in vitro cultivation environment for cancer stem cells to grow had allowed them to better understand the growth pattern of cancer stem cells, she said.
Chen said they discovered that once the links between the CAF and cancer stem cells are blocked, the growth of the cancer stem cell is also blocked, thus the model may be able to contribute to the development of medicine against cancers in the future.
“The result of this model can be applied in various ways. By killing the cancer stem cell, we gain a chance for patients to live longer and reduce the cancer reoccurrence rate,” Yang said, adding that their research result may benefit cancer treatments, or even help the development of vaccines to prevent cancer stem cells from growing.
The team’s discovery is due to be published in Nature Communications, an international academic journal, on Tuesday.