Research Updates

What's the newest U-M research on head and neck cancer stem cells?

Dr. Prince explains "cell lines" and what makes them important to this research.

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It's difficult to obtain tissue samples from head and neck tumors for research, because the tumors are small and must be used to diagnose disease. U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center scientists are studying cell lines grown from head and neck cancers to see if they contain cancer stem cells.

One of these scientists, Thomas Carey, is an expert on head and neck cancer cell lines. He has developed the largest repository of head and neck cancer cell lines in the world. Scientists can grow as much of these cell lines as they need. So if cell lines contain cancer stem cells, researchers would have a never-ending supply to study. This would help them move ahead with the research more rapidly.

U-M scientists also are studying the role of cancer stem cells in metastasis. In recent research, they found that only cancer stem cells can produce metastasis in head and neck cancer. Maybe cancer stem cells have sub-populations that do different things. One may be responsible for local growth, one for regional metastasis, and another for distant metastasis. Continued research will look at these questions.

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