Cancer stem cells do exist in humans

London, May 17 (IANS) The question where does cancer originate have long occupied the attention of scientists and the answer may well be found in cancer stem cells, a study confirmed.

The gene mutations driving cancer were tracked for the first time in patients back to cancer stem cells, according to the study.

"We have identified a subset of cancer cells, shown that these rare cells are invariably the cells in which the cancer originates, and also are the only cancer-propagating cells in the patients," said Petter Woll from Oxford University.

The researchers investigated malignant cells in the bone marrow of patients with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and followed them over time.

They demonstrated that a distinct and rare subset of MDS cells showed all the hallmarks of cancer stem cells, and that no other malignant MDS cells were able to propagate the tumour.

"This is conclusive evidence for the existence of cancer stem cells in myelodysplastic syndromes," Woll added.

It is vital because it suggests that if you want to cure patients, you would need to target and remove these cells at the root of the cancer, the scientist explained.