Targeting cancer stem cells may be the key to treatment cancers such as HNSCC.
Head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCCs) are a significant cause of morbidity and mortality. The 5 year survival rate for HNSCC patients is only 50%. Despite recent advances, treatment of HNSCC remains one of the most difficult challenges in head and neck oncology. Chemotherapy is of limited usefulness since HNSCCs often exhibit resistance to chemotherapy. Research has demonstrated that this may be due in part to the presence of a tumorigenic type of cancer stem cell. These cells, also known as cancer-initiating cells (CIC), are a population of cells that can self-renew and produce differentiated cells that form the bulk of the tumor.
Small molecule inhibitors of cancer stem cells have been developed.
Researchers at the University of Michigan have identified a major regulatory mechanism responsible for perpetuation of CICs and HNSCCs. To this end, they developed small molecule inhibitors capable of binding to key, specific domains of a regulatory protein that proved to be a critical component in the CIC proliferation mechanism. In vitro experiments reveal that these compounds can lead to significant reductions in CIC growth and proliferation. These small molecule inhibitors may prove to be a highly effective treatment for HNSCC and other types of cancer in which this regulatory mechanism plays a major role.
Applications and Advantages
- New drug target.
- Small molecule treatment of cancer.
- Highly specific and effective.