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Physician Connection
A Communication Service for Physicians from CHOC and CHOC at Mission. Please Note: Physician Connection is no longer being printed and is now available electronically. Please visit our blog at http://docs.chocchildrens.org for the latest articles for our physician community. You can also receive our electronic Physician Connection newsletter in your inbox by subscribing to our mailing list: http://www.choc.org/subscribe

Pursuing A Cure For Cancer
Cancer Stem Cell Research May Lead to Cancer-Free Life

CHOC neurosurgeon William Loudon, M.D., Ph.D., has come to realize that with all the current clinical therapies available, only some of his brain tumor patients will be completely cancer-free after exhaustion of current treatments. Dr. Loudon has puzzled over this limitation for years.

"Primary brain tumors are now the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in children. An estimated 18,820 new cases of brain cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2006, and more than 12,000 will die from the disease. Glioblastoma, the most aggressive primary brain tumor, is uniformly fatal. With aggressive surgery, radiation and chemotherapy in combination with alternative medicine here at CHOC, we exceed the expected average life expectancy routinely by six months or more. But the question remains: How can we make real progress towards a cure? This question has haunted me for a long time."

Now, Dr. Loudon believes cancer stem cells, a small fraction of all the cells in a glioma that have special characteristics similar to brain stem cells, play a key role in maintaining this limitation. As a neurosurgeon, he started to collaborate with scientists on the theory that tumors arise from a single, self-renewing cell type, namely cancer stem cells. Current cancer therapies remove rapidly dividing tumor cells; however, these "bad seeds" -cancer stem cells-may prove to have the ability to escape standard therapy, explaining tumor re-growth and new malignancies.

Cancer stem cells have been identified in acute myeloid leukemia, breast cancer and, most recently, brain tumors. With a frequency as few as one out of hundreds or even thousands of tumor cells, cancer stem cells must be targeted and eliminated to prevent tumor relapse and to promote a cancer-free life.

Most recently joining Dr. Loudon in this endeavor is Shengwen "Calvin" Li, Ph.D., a recognized pioneer in caveolae-mediated signal transduction research.

"Working with artifactual cell lines, scientists have cured cancer in rats many times. The humans are still waiting. The lack of fresh specimens has severely handicapped all cancer research," Dr. Loudon says. "We are creating a whole new paradigm- a platform in which to directly target human brain tumor cancer stem cells. We are collaborating with several basic and clinical research laboratories from different universities nationwide to create a gestalt. Working in a hospital, we at CHOC offer a unique perspective to the cancer research community with our innovative system. We expect to have a better understanding about how human brain cancer cells behave. Our goal is to specifically root out cancer stem cells, providing a cancer-free life for our patients."

For more information about the CHOC Center for Neuroscience and Stem Cell Research, please call 714-516-4341.

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Children's Hospital of Orange County is affiliated with UC Irvine Healthcare and UC Irvine School of Medicine

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