Researchers at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) have discovered that stem cells from the tumors can be bright, a finding that will allow to find them more easily, isolate them, and test customized therapies, and more effective.
The results of the research, headed by scientists Irene Miranda, Bruno Sainz and Christopher Heeschen, are published today in the journal Nature Methods.
tumors are groups of cells are very different morphologically and molecularly.
it Is estimated that 1-2% of the tumor mass is composed of tumor stem cells, which originate from cancer and resist conventional chemotherapies, but it is a percentage so small that it is very difficult to isolate them to work with them and study their resistance to the drugs.
however, scientists from the CNIO have discovered that stem cells contain riboflavin or vitamin B2, a pigment that emits green fluorescence as a result of their accumulation in intracellular vesicles.
“This luminous property allows for the identification of cancer stem cells without using any antibody or other techniques that are more complex and of greater cost”, explains Irene Miranda, the first signatory of the article, in statements to Efe.
“During the investigation, we inject them into mice and saw that they were able to form tumors from as few as one cell”, that is to say,they are the ones that cause the cancer, “as the queen bee of a hive” he said.
The discovery of this new marker is “breakthrough” because it allows you to “to identify the tumor stem cells, the more invasive and quimioresistentes”.
“In many patients, giving chemotherapy, it seems that the tumor disappears, but when you stop the treatment, the tumor starts to grow again; this may be due, among other reasons, to the fact that these cells bright do not die when receiving chemotherapy, and re-generate the cancer”.
“Normally we only see the leaves of the tree that represent the tumors, and we cannot see the roots, which are the true responsible for its progression and growth”, explains Miranda.
The research, which has been proven in several types of tumors, including samples from patients with cancer of the pancreas, liver, colon, and lung, raising the question: why do tumour stem cells accumulate vitamin B2?
The researchers show in the article that is due to an increase in the protein ABCG2, responsible for the transport of vitamin into the interior of the intracellular vesicles that confer lightness to the cells. However, the reason for this phenomenon is yet to be determined.
Despite the unknowns about its nature, the autofluorescence could boost the personalized medicine of the future and the development of cancer treatments more effective.
“from now on we will be able to isolate the cells autofluorescent from a biopsy and to test their sensitivity in a panel of experimental drugs or marketed”, say Sainz and Heeschen.
“so we want to accelerate the identification of new drugs or combinations of them that are able to eliminate the cancer stem cells of that particular patient,”, adds Saini.
The study has been funded by the European Union, the Carlos III Institute of Health, the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness and the Foundation ‘La Caixa’.