Leukemia Stem Cell Research
What are the goals of this research?The goal is to develop a sophisticated understanding of how self-renewal mechanisms in cancer stem cells differ from normal stem cells. The problem with treatments targeted at cancer stem cells is the possibility of killing normal stem cells, too. In the context of blood-forming stem cells and leukemia, that's a potentially lethal side effect.
U-M researchers want to identify the rare differences between leukemic stem cells and normal blood-forming stem cells, so the leukemic stem cells can be killed without hurting normal stem cells. The research with Pten and rapamycin gives researchers hope they can find effective therapies for leukemia that won't damage the patient's normal blood-forming system.
How will this research help people with cancer?The role for basic science is to provide a pipeline of new ideas. Stem cell biology has a lot to add to cancer research, especially new knowledge about self-renewal mechanisms. By applying the principles of stem cell biology to cancer, researchers will gain new insights that could lead to new strategies for treatment. It's a tough problem, so not all the new things scientists try will work, but a subset of these insights will lead to better treatments for cancer. When one thing works, it changes people's lives.