Cancer stem cells are cells found in tumors that have the ability to propagate the tumor after its dissociation. In some tumors, this property is expressed by a large fraction of the total tumor cells, meaning abundant cancer stem cells. However, in many tumors the cancer stem cell fraction is small, mimicking the smaller fractions of stem cells in normal adult tissues. This distribution of cancer stem cells has captured the imagination of cancer scientists. There is speculation that cancer stem cells at low fractions in tumors may be responsible for cancer drug resistance, metastasis, and tumor recurrence.
Due to the widely-held importance of cancer stem cells in cancer development and treatment, there is considerable interest in identifying, quantifying, and investigating them. However, because of the inherent heterogeneity of human tumor cellularity, the search for cancer stem cell specific biomarkers has been even more fraught with false positives than the search for specific biomarkers for normal tissue stem cells.
Asymmetrex’s highly specific biomarkers for adult tissue stem cells open a new path to more specific biomarkers for cancer stem cells. There is a long held hypothesis that many tumors arise as a result of mutations that occur in tissue stem cells. It follows from this concept that some, and perhaps many, cancer stem cells are the descendants of mutated adult tissue stem cells that originated a tumor. In previous years, Asymmetrex scientists worked with academic partners to test this idea with melanoma cancer stem cells. We found that, indeed, a highly specific biomarker for adult tissue stem cells could prove to be a highly specific biomarker for cancer stem cells as well.
Asymmetrex’s new tissue stem cell specific biomarkers are available for licensing for a wide range of applications for both normal tissue stem cells and cancer stem cells.