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Molecular and cellular heterogeneity of tumour stem cells in human glioblastoma

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Stem cells explain cancer heterogeneity

There is an urgent clinical need to improve the outcome of cancer patients. European researchers investigated the hypothesis that cancer heterogeneity could be attributed to cancer stem cells.

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Accumulating evidence suggests that in cancer, a small population of cells known as tumour stem cells (TSCs) are responsible for tumour growth, propagation and metastasis. Scientists believe that this theory could also explain the heterogeneity which characterises the most devastating brain cancer, glioblastoma. Although glioblastoma incidence is rare, its high rates of mortality make it among the five leading causes of cancer-related deaths. Little is known about the potential impact of TSCs in tumour heterogeneity and emergence of therapy resistance which is often observed in glioblastoma patients. To address this issue, the EU-funded 'Molecular and cellular heterogeneity of tumour stem cells in human glioblastoma' (TUMOURSTEMCELLS) project studied the molecular and cellular properties of TSCs in human glioblastoma. Using different areas of tumour samples from adult patients diagnosed with primary glioblastoma, scientists went on to characterise the cellular phenotype of TSCs present in these samples. They also performed molecular genetic profiling of TSCs to observe extensive genetic intra-tumour heterogeneity. The work of the TUMOURSTEMCELLS project contributed to refine our understanding of the complex molecular landscape of glioblastoma. Given the poor survival rates of brain cancer patients, the project findings could potentially improve therapeutic strategies and bring hope to future patients.

Keywords

Cancer, tumour stem cells, glioblastoma, genetic, heterogeneity

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