Adrenal Cancer Stem Cell Research
Has anyone found an adrenal cancer stem cell?Not yet. The U-M Cancer Center is one of the few research institutions working on the genetics and cell biology of adrenal cancer, so there's still a great deal of work to be done in this field.
How does the U-M Cancer Center approach research on stem cells in adrenal cancer? U-M researchers are studying genes involved in the biology of normal stem or progenitor cells in the adrenal cortex, as well as the genetics of adrenal cancer. They think the same genes that regulate normal stem cells could be responsible for adrenal cancer. This is consistent with the cancer stem cell hypothesis that defective stem cells are the root cause of cancer.
Scientists in the Cancer Center are particularly interested in three genes that are associated with familial pediatric adrenal cancer and are similar to mutated genes found in adult adrenal cancer. All three of these genes are known to be involved in normal stem cell biology. When we induce mutations in those genes in mice, they get adrenal cancer.
By understanding exactly how these genes and others work - both in normal and malignant adrenal cells - researchers hope to use that knowledge to create new treatments targeted at these genetic defects.
What are the goals of this research? The scientific goal of Dr. Hammer's laboratory research is to define normal stem cell biology in the adrenal gland. Understanding what's normal will help researchers figure out what happens when stem cells act abnormally. This will allow them to complete the circle from normal to pathologic, from mouse to human, and the signaling pathways that link them.