Cancer Stem Cells and Ageing

Why we focus on Cancer Stem Cells and Ageing

Stem Cells & Cancer

With the availability of ever more sophisticated model systems and technologies it has now become evident that cancers are driven by heterogeneity (differences within the tumour cell population). Cancer stem cells represent a subset of cancer cells that represent the root of the disease by giving rise to all differentiated daughter cell clones within each cancer subclone. Even more importantly, these cells drive the metastatic behaviour of many cancers and represent an important source for disease relapse. Thus, cancer stem cells should signify a crucial component for any novel treatment approach.

Cancer & Ageing

In the UK, 155,000 people aged 70+ years are diagnosed with cancer every year representing 50% of all cancer diagnoses, a number likely to rise as the population ages. Survival rates for older cancer patients lag behind younger patients with the same cancers. We now face new problems in understanding the biology of older people who develop cancer, which also includes, but is not limited to important co-morbidities such as diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Cancer needs to be studied in the appropriate context, but most of our current cancer models are lacking important aspects of ageing, co-morbidities and subsequent changes to the tumour microenvironment.

What we do

The BCI will pioneer a Centre for Cancer Stem Cells & Ageing that spans both molecular and patient biology to address the twin issues of cancer and ageing in cancer (stem) cells and in people. Building on our established strength in stem cell biology, we will further expand our laboratory programme to important aspects of our ageing patient population including age-related co-morbidities.

See the Centre Page for more information.

Key Publications

  • Miranda-Lorenzo I, et al. Intracellular autofluorescence: a biomarker for epithelial cancer stem cells. Nat Methods. 2014 Sep 21.
  • Hermann PC, et al. Nicotine promotes initiation and progression of KRAS-induced pancreatic cancer via Gata6-dependent dedifferentiation of acinar cells in mice. Gastro. 2014 Aug 12.
  • Balic A, et al. Chloroquine targets pancreatic cancer stem cells via inhibition of CXCR4 and hedgehog signaling. Mol Cancer Ther. 2014 Jul;13(7):1758-71.
  • Lonardo E, et al. Metformin targets the metabolic achilles heel of human pancreatic cancer stem cells. PLoS One. 2013 Oct 18;8(10):e76518.
  • Sainz B Jr, Heeschen C. Standing out from the crowd: cancer stem cells in hepatocellular carcinoma. Cancer Cell. 2013 Apr 15;23(4):431-3.
  • Lonardo E et al. Pancreatic stellate cells form a niche for cancer stem cells and promote their self-renewal and invasiveness. Cell Cycle. 2012 Apr 1;11(7):1282-90.
  • Lonardo E, et al. Nodal/Activin signaling drives self-renewal and tumorigenicity of pancreatic cancer stem cells and provides a target for combined drug therapy. Cell Stem Cell. 2011 Nov 4;9(5):433-46.
  • Hermann PC, et al. Distinct populations of cancer stem cells determine tumor growth and metastatic activity in human pancreatic cancer.
  • Cell Stem Cell. 2007 Sep 13;1(3):313-23. 

Who does the research

→ Click here for senior researchers working on cancer stem cells and ageing

Major Funders

  • ERC
  • EU
  • MICINN
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