Santa Clara University
Cancer, a leading cause of death in many developed countries, has become a global health burden. Much of the drain on healthcare systems has resulted from the high cost and ineffectiveness of conventional cancer treatments, which often lead to cancer relapse or metastasis. The failures of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery have been elucidated by the cancer stem cell (CSC) hypothesis, which postulates that a small percentage of tumor cells drive tumorigenesis. These cells can sustain cancer through their capacity to self-renew and differentiate into specialized tumor cell types, similar to how healthy stem cells maintain healthy tissues. Conventional cancer treatments target the “bulk,” non-CSC tumor cells, leaving behind drug-resistant cancer stem cells. Theoretically, treatments that eradicate entire populations of cancer stem cells prevent drug resistance, relapse, and metastasis of cancer, leading to more favorable outcomes for patients. Currently, therapies targeting CSCs are being explored both in the lab and in clinical trials, many of which show promise as effective drugs to be used in future widespread practice. Drugs that have the ability to destroy CSCs eliminate many of the side side effects and reduce the toxicity of current cancer therapies, if they are formulated to be CSC-specific. The CSC hypothesis has widespread global health implications, presenting a way to reduce the cost of cancer treatment and to prolong and improve lives of cancer patients.
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Paton, Emily, "The End of an Era: The Cancer Stem Cell Hypothesis and Its Therapeutic Implications" (2014). Independent Study Project (ISP) Collection. 1989.
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