Every type of tissue in the human body is capable of regeneration. This process of regeneration is started in adult stem cells, which are stem cells with a limited number of tissue types they can convert to. Adult liver stem cells, for example, can only become liver tissue types.
Now research from Cornell University is hinting that studying the adult stem cells of various cancer-prone organs might reveal clues to the tendency of one person’s organs to eventually become cancerous:
… the researchers microdissected ovary and hilum cells, inactivated two tumor suppressor genes p53 and Rb1, whose pathways are commonly altered in human aggressive ovarian carcinoma, and injected cells into the abdominal cavity of mice. Very few tumors developed in the mice injected with ovary cells, but almost all of the mice injected with hilum cells died after developing aggressive, metastasizing cancers that were similar to human ovarian carcinomas.
In other words, by injecting mice with cancer-prone ovarian adult stem cells, they were able to create mice who predictably grew aggressive cancers. Working backwards from that, it might be possible to look for the existence of the two “tumor suppressor genes” in living human patients and predict the likelihood of ovarian cancer.
Researchers think it may be possible to find identical markers in other tissue-generating cells and treat cancer in much earlier phases of the disease. The article notes that, particularly where epithelial ovarian cancer is concerned, patients often don’t know they have a problem until it is already very late in the process. Thus identifying a person’s likelihood of developing certain types of cancers may provide a huge head start for successful treatment.