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Friday, January 06, 2006

Faulty Breast Stem Cells May Cause Tumors

Defects in a newly identified breast stem cell that drives the formation of breast tissue may lead to tumors, according to an Australian study with mice.

Under normal circumstances, this breast stem cell will produce healthy tissue. But genetic errors in the stem cell, perhaps combined with family predisposition and external factors, could cause the stem cell to produce tumor cells, the researchers said.

This finding may explain cancer recurrence in some women whose breast cancer cells were believed eliminated by chemotherapy. An errant stem cell is more resistant to chemotherapy because it divides more slowly than cancer cells. While chemotherapy may destroy the majority of cancer cells, a defective breast stem cell may survive and begin producing cancer cells months or years after a woman has been treated for breast cancer, said the researchers from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.


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