Pancreatic Cancer Stem Cell Research
Do pancreatic cancer stem cells have a "fingerprint"?All cells have a unique pattern of proteins, like a fingerprint, on their surface membranes. In 2003, scientists at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center discovered that breast cancer stem cells have a surface protein marker called CD44. So researchers looked for cells from pancreatic tumors with high levels of CD44 on their outer membranes.
They found that pancreatic cancer stem cells can be identified by the presence of three protein surface markers called CD44, CD24 and ESA. Recent work suggests that c-Met is another important marker on the cell surface of cancer cells. Other cells in pancreatic tumors don't have this combination of protein markers. These surface proteins help pancreatic cancer stem cells stick to other cell surfaces. They also trigger important signaling pathways between stem cells and their environment.
How common are pancreatic cancer stem cells?U-M researchers found that only 0.5% to 1% of cells from pancreatic tumors contained the unique cancer stem cell fingerprint of three protein surface markers called CD44, CD24 and ESA.
Are pancreatic cancer stem cells the same as those found in other types of cancer?Pancreatic cancer stem cells have some similarities to cancer stem cells found in other types of cancer; however, there also appear to be some significant differences. This is why it is important to study the function of these cells in the specific cancer in which these cells arise to best understand their function. Regardless of the organ in which they are found, cancer stem cells appear to be responsible for the propagation of cancer and for its spread to other organs in the body. But they may do this in different ways.
While many cancer stem cells may have one or two protein surface markers in common, scientists have not identified a universal fingerprint for all cancer stem cells. Scientists still don't know if all cancer stem cells use the same signaling pathways to drive the development of cancer.