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Understanding the role of stem cells in tumours of the brain and pituitary gland

  • Researcher: Dr Robin Lovell-Badge
  • Institution: The Francis Crick Institute
  • Award Amount: £164,678 for 3 years from October 2013
  • Cancer Type: Brain Tumour
Understanding the role of stem cells in tumours of the brain and pituitary gland
All normal tissues within our bodies have a tiny population of stem cells. These are amazing 'starter cells' which have the unique ability to multiply and change into a variety of other cells depending on the tissue in which they are located in the body. The worrying discovery of a small group of cancer cells with stem cell properties, known as cancer stem cells, in several different types of cancer has profound implications for cancer treatments. It is thought that these cancer stem cells could be responsible for the progression, spread and reoccurrence of cancers as they seem to be able to escape death when treated with anti-cancer drugs. Some cancer stem cells are thought to originate from tissue stem cells and it is therefore important for scientists to identify and understand the differences between these 'good' tissue stem cells which can be helpful in regenerative medicine and 'bad' cancer stem cells which need to be killed. Dr Lovell-Badge has identified two proteins called SOX2 and p27 which he thinks are involved in normal stem cells and which, when altered, have a detrimental role in creating cancer stem cells. Dr Lovell-Badge is therefore using his Worldwide Cancer Research grant to investigate the part played by SOX2 and p27 in the development of brain tumours called glioblastomas and in pituitary adenomas.
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