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Long-living breast stem cells give clues to cancer cells of origin

Jan 28th 2014 at 10:26 PM

Researchers in Australia have found that breast stem cells and their "daughters" have a longer life than previously believed. This newly discovered longer lifespan suggests that these cells could carry damage or genetic defects earlier in life that eventually lead to cancer decades later.

The researchers, from Melbourne's Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, have published their results in the journal Nature, and they say their discovery could help with the development of treatments and diagnostics for breast cancer.   https://app.box.com/s/qm8ewbt0o855yr59scha

Their project involved tracking the development of normal breast stem cells. By tracking these cells, they found they actively maintain breast tissue throughout a woman's life, from puberty through adulthood, contributing to all major stages of breast development.

"Given that these stem cells - and their 'daughter' progenitor cells - can live for such a long time and are capable of self-renewing, damage to their genetic code could lead to breast cancer 10 or 20 years later," says Prof. Geoff Lindeman, study author and oncologist at The Royal Melbourne Hospital.

He adds that their finding "has important applications for our understanding of breast cancer."

Potential for 'new treatment and diagnostic strategies'
Prof. Jane Visvader, another study author from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, says understanding how breast cells develop is crucial to establishing which cells bring about breast cancer and why.

"Without knowing the precise cell types in which breast cancer originates, we will continue to struggle in our efforts to develop new diagnostics and treatments for breast cancer, or developing preventive strategies," she says.

She explains how they used a 3D imaging technique to track stem cells and their daughter cells in the video below:




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