A wide range of stem cell technologies have been used for cancer treatment. They include immuno-reconstitution to replenish blood cells lost during chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and as delivery vehicles for anti-cancer drugs.
Recently, stem cells have become a new focus for research into cancer treatment. This is because the cancer stem cells may be a critical factor in tumor formation and are resistant to traditional cancer therapies.
1. Targeting Cancer Stem Cells
Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are a subset of the cells in your body that may play an important role in cancer progression. They can influence metastasis, drug resistance, and immune escape.
CSCs can be identified with a combination of surface markers and DNA changes. These markers can help find them when a tumor is first diagnosed, and can be used to monitor treatment progress.
Targeted therapies stop cancer cells from growing by interrupting signals that tell them to divide, even when they’re not supposed to. These treatments also stop them from spreading.
Many different types of targeted therapy targets the proteins that control how cancer cells grow and divide. They can be small-molecule drugs or monoclonal antibodies.
2. Differentiation Therapy
Differentiation therapy uses drugs to force cancer cells to change into normal, healthy cells. This can help prevent tumors from recurring and improve the outlook for patients with cancer.
This type of treatment is particularly useful for blood cancers, such as acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). APL is a rare, highly aggressive form of blood cancer that can be difficult to treat with standard chemotherapy.
These therapies may help patients with APL live longer by allowing doctors to use much higher doses of chemo. They can also give doctors the ability to target specific tumors.
A new study shows that retinoic acid can be used to stimulate cancer stem cells to mature into normal blood cells. It is also effective in treating other types of blood cancers.
Differentiation therapy is a promising approach to treating cancer. However, it has several challenges, such as overcoming cancer plasticity and the complexity of tumor survival dynamics.
Immunotherapy is a form of cancer treatment that uses the immune system to fight the disease. It can boost or change how your immune system works, so it can find and destroy more cancer cells.
Some types of immunotherapy can also “train” your immune system to remember cancer cells, making them less likely to recur or return after treatments are completed. These positive immune responses may help you live longer.
Unlike conventional cancer therapies, which only attack the rapidly dividing cells of the tumor, immunotherapy can also target the cells that hide from your immune system and evade destruction. This includes the cancer stem cells that form the center of the tumor and make the rest of it grow.
Using a type of immunotherapy called checkpoint inhibitors, your doctor can wake up your immune cells so they’ll attack the cancer and kill it. These drugs are often used along with other types of cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation.
4. Targeting Quiescent Cancer Stem Cells
Cancer stem cells (CSCs) play a key role in the initiation, progression, and resistance to cancer treatments. They are also responsible for recurrence, which is a major cause of death in patients with incurable cancers.
CSCs are present in the majority of solid tumors and hematological malignancies. They express molecular markers that reflect their specific phenotypes and provide an ideal model system to study therapeutic targets and cancer cell interactions.
However, despite their critical role in cancer, CSCs are not easy to kill by conventional or targeted anticancer agents. In fact, they can persist for decades and recur in the same or subsequent tumors after treatment has been discontinued.
Another potential therapeutic target is quiescent cancer stem cells, which do not divide but are still alive. These cells are able to survive for long periods of time and may be the reason why many cancers continue to relapse after successful therapy. The challenge to overcome these dormant cancer stem cells is a very large one and it will require drug-targeting strategies that are specific for this subpopulation.