In 2008, Markus Frank, MD, of Children’s Hospital Boston and an affiliate member of the Stem Cell Program at Children's, published a study that links ABCB5, a protein that protects cells, to mutant stem cells that help melanomas grow. Targeting this protein in mouse models of skin cancer caused the mutant stem cells to die, making the melanomas easier to treat.
Richard White, MD, PhD, and Leonard Zon, MD, of Children’s study melanoma cells in fish that are specially bred to be transparent. These see-through fish allow researchers to see how and why melanoma cells metastasize, or spread, creating a deadly cancer. The see-through fish also allow researchers to observe how blood stem cells migrate and settle permanently at their correct targets after transplantation, an important step in making sure a transplant succeeds. The Zon lab’s work with zebrafish resulted in the publication of two papers in Nature in March 2011. Read more here.
These are a few examples of why it’s important to study the concept of “cancer stem cells,” the idea that cancer grows and perpetuates out of stem cells that have gone off course.