The concept of cancer stem cells and functional hierarchy

Over the past decades, a hierarchy in tumor cells has been observed, with some of them expressing distinct tumor behavior and capacity. This hierarchy is illustrated by the presence of a particularly resistant subpopulation of tumor cells, Cancer Stem Cells, or CSCs.

Despite conventional cytotoxic anticancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, a small number of remaining CSCs can form a new tumor with the same characteristics as the initial tumor, with treatment resistance.

Within a tumor, CSCs improve the progression of tumor growth and resistance to therapies, particularly chemotherapy.

On the other hand, when CSCs evolve into differentiated tumor cells, they lose these properties, stop their multiplication, and become more sensitive to conventional treatment.

Cancer Stem Cell

CSCs, one of the causes of therapeutic failure

The goal of anticancer therapies is to eradicate tumor cells. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy aim to kill cancer cells, usually by causing massive DNA damage.

These strategies show some success for many tumors but are limited for certain particularly resistant cancers. Indeed, these cancers have specific cells (CSCs) with very effective resistance mechanisms to these cytotoxic approaches.

In this case, radiation and chemotherapy induce a selection of very resistant CSCs, which persist in the tumor and are responsible for recurrences due to their capacity to proliferate.

A breakthrough solution to improve anti-cancer treatments

Due to their biological properties, the presence of resistant CSCs in cancers such as glioblastomas, a still incurable primary brain tumor, leads conventional treatment to a currently insurmountable therapeutic limit.

Faced with this failure, it was possible to imagine a breakthrough therapeutic strategy, based no longer on the induction of cell death, but rather on forcing the evolution of CSCs towards a differentiated tumor cell, deprived of tumorigenicity and more sensitive to conventional treatments.

This strategy, called "differentiating therapeutic strategy", was developed by the academic laboratory of Dr. Virolle (Nice), and confirmed by numerous publications, in the context, at least, of glioblastoma.

This team, with the reinforcement of people from Industry, became a company, and its current drug targets CSCs and reduces their proliferation and resistance. 

cancer stem celles

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