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Seven-year study pays off with ‘most detailed’ picture of head and neck cancer stem cells to date

Cancer stem cells resist therapy and are a major cause of relapse, long after the bulk of a tumor has been killed. A University of Colorado Cancer Center study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Instituteprovides the most comprehensive picture to date of head and neck cancer stem cells, identifying genetic pathways that cancer stem cells hijack to promote tumor growth and visualizing the process of “asymmetric division” that allows a stem cell to create tumor tissue cells while retaining its own stem-like profile. The study is the result of seven years of research and innovation, including the development of novel techniques that allowed researchers to identify, harvest, and grow these elusive stem cells into populations large enough to study. This major body of work provides specific targets for the development of new cancer therapeutics.

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