Victorian Breast Cancer Research Consortium scientists from The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, using a mouse model, have discovered the rare stem cell that drives the formation of all breast tissue. This discovery lays an important foundation for understanding how normal breast tissue develops. The identification of the breast stem cell is also likely to provide clues about how breast cancer develops and how rogue cells evade current therapies.
Under normal circumstances, the newly identified breast stem cell will produce healthy tissue. But it is believed that an accumulation of genetic errors, perhaps combined with external influences and a family predisposition, could cause the breast stem cell or a "daughter" cell to produce faulty cells. In effect, the errant breast cell can become a tumour factory.
For many years, scientists and clinicians have been puzzled by the fact that women whose breast cancer cells have been apparently eliminated by chemotherapy sometimes experience a recurrence of their cancer. A cancerous stem cell could provide one possible explanation for such a recurrence.
Brad Allen | EurekAlert!
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