Cancer stem cells use normal genes in abnormal ways
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IMAGE: Mayumi Fajita, MD, PhD and colleagues show that CDK1 interacts with Sox2 to keep cancer stem cells ‘stemmy’. view more 

Credit: University of Colorado Cancer Center

CDK1 is a “normal” protein – its presence drives cells through the cycle of replication. And MHC Class I molecules are “normal” as well – they present bits of proteins on the surfaces of cells for examination by the immune system. But a University of Colorado Cancer Center study published in the journal Cancer Research shows that a population of cancer cells marked by MHC Class I molecules and high CDK1 is anything but normal. In fact, these MHC Class I-high, CDK1 high molecules may be at the heart of conditions including melanoma, pancreatic and colon cancers. These cells may, in fact, be the long-sought cancer stem cells that often resist treatments like chemotherapy to reseed these cancers once treatment ends.

From the outset, the goal of this study was different than most. Often, cancer researchers will grow tumors and then ask what kinds of drugs or genetic changes make tumors grow or shrink. However, the current study wondered not what makes tumors change size, but what factors in these cells initiate

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