At least some forms of cancers are generated and supported by a small population of cancer stem cells, a malfunctioning, rapidly growing mirror of the healthy tissue environment in which large number of somatic cells are supported by a small number of stem cells. It is the presence of these cancer stem cells that makes it challenging to permanently clear cancer from a patient – if only a few such cells survive, the cancer will return, and the present generation of cancer treatments cannot reliably remove 100% of the targeted cells. Looking on the bright side, if a method of selectively targeting and destroying cancer stem cells could be developed, then this could be a very useful approach to cancer therapeutics. While it is still up for debate as to what degree of useful, exploitable similarity exists between the cancer stem cells that have been identified in cancers of various different types, the research here makes for interesting reading in this context. It strongly suggests that these similarities exist and are broadly present in many tissue types.
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