Scientific American asks whether Stem Cells are the Real Culprits in Cancer.
A dark side of stem cells--their potential to turn malignant--is at the root of a handful of cancers and may be the cause of many more. Eliminating the disease could depend on tracking down and destroying these elusive killer cells.
A malignant transformation turns them rogue.
Many such similarities between stem cells and cancer cells have been noted. The classical definition of malignancy itself includes cancer cells' apparent capacity to survive and multiply indefinitely, their ability to invade neighboring tissues and to migrate (metastasize) to distant sites in the body. In effect, the usual constraints that tightly control cellular proliferation and identity seem to have been lifted from cancer cells.
Normal stem cells' power to self-renew already exempts them from the rules limiting life span and proliferation for most cells. ......
In healthy stem cells, strict genetic regulation keeps their potential for unlimited growth and diversification in check. Remove those control mechanisms, and the result would be some-thing that sounds very much like malignancy.