Investigating the role of cancer stem cells
in the biology of human cancer
Evidence suggests that, at least in certain types of cancer, malignancy is propagated by a few cells that have the properties of stem cells. The existence of such cell types has been proven in certain types of malignancy.Using oral cancer, as a paradigm of squamous carcinoma, we are evaluating the role of cancer stem cells in cancer biology. In these studies, cells will be isolated from pieces of tumour tissue taken out at surgery and evaluated in biological assays to establish the stemness of individual cells.
Such stem-like cells will then be further characterized in terms of their surface antigens and signalling pathways, and variations in stem cell density and phenotype will be associated with the biological behaviour of the tumour as recorded by the clinician's follow up.
Surgical resection cures these tumours if diagnosed sufficiently early. Beyond this stage, tumours receive radiation therapy and chemotherapy. The latter, in particular, destroys the bulk of the cancer (non-stem) cells but probably does not significantly affect cancer stem cells. It is theoretically possible that targeting cancer stem cells, for example by producing monoclonal antibodies against antigens very specific to cancer stem cells, may enhance the ability of chemotherapy to eradicate tumours rather than just keep them in check.
These studies of cancer biology are being done in collaboration with Prof. John Muthuswamy, head and neck cancer surgeon at CMC. Sam Vijay Kumar, the graduate student undertaking these studies, is registered for a Ph.D. degree with the Tamilnadu Dr. M.G.R. Medical University.
Tumour samples collected
in transport medium
Bits of tumour seeded
in Petri Plates
Bits of tumour seeded
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