Cancer Stem Cell Research Introduction

At the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center, we believe treatments designed to target and destroy cancer stem cells will revolutionize how we treat cancer

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Over the last 30 years, researchers have developed more effective treatments for cancers like childhood leukemia, Hodgkin's disease and testicular cancer. Death rates for some common cancers, like breast and prostate cancer, have gone down due to advances in early detection and prevention. However, the survival rate for patients with many advanced cancers has not changed significantly for decades, and cancer is still the second-most common cause of death in the United States.

At the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, we believe one reason for this lack of progress is that traditional therapies - like surgery, chemotherapy and radiation - do not destroy the small number of cells driving the cancer's growth. Instead of trying to kill all the cells in a tumor with chemotherapy or radiation, we believe it would be more effective to use treatments targeted directly at these so-called cancer stem cells. If the stem cells were eliminated, the cancer would be unable to grow and spread to other locations in the body.

Commitment to Cancer Stem Cell Research

What are cancer stem cells?

Cancer stem cells are the small number of cells within a tumor that drive the tumor's growth. These cells generally make up just 1% to 3% of all cells in a tumor.   Read more

The U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center is one of only a few research institutions in the United States and Canada that has made an institutional commitment to cancer stem cell research. Organized teams of U-M scientists are studying cancer stem cells in many different types of cancer - including adrenal, breast, colon, head and neck, leukemia, lung, melanoma, myeloma, pancreatic, prostate and thyroid cancers. By working together and sharing information, Cancer Center scientists hope to make progress more rapidly than would be possible for individual scientists working alone.

We believe new treatments designed to target and destroy cancer stem cells could revolutionize the way physicians treat cancer. Our goal is to be the world's leader in research on cancer stem cells and in the development of new stem cell-based therapies for cancer patients.

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Updated 03.2011