Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Clinical trial focusing on cancer stem cells to begin in Japan

A clinical trial focusing on cancer stem cells is set to begin sometime next April at the National Cancer Center Hospital East in Chiba Prefecture. Purpose of the study is to assess the safety and efficacy of sulfasalazine in terminal stomach cancer patients.

Reportedly, the trial will utilise the findings made by researchers at the NCC Hospital East and Tokyo's Keio University who discovered that sulfasalazine inhibits the expression of CD44v, a protein on the surface of stomach cancer stem cells which in turn makes them vulnerable to certain anti-cancer drugs.

During the trial, several terminal stomach cancer patients will receive sulfasalazine, four times a day for at least two weeks to examine the drug's safety and efficacy in humans.

Atsushi Ohtsu, director of the Research Centre for Innovative Oncology at the NCC Hospital East said:

“A therapy that attacks the very root of cancer could turn out to be more effective than conventional therapies.”


Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, refers to any cancer arising from any part of the stomach. Stomach cancer causes about 800,000 deaths per year. Prognosis is very poor (5-year survival <5 to 15%) as most patients are diagnossed when the cancer is already at an advanced stage.

Cancer stem cells are cancer cells present in many different types of cancer. These cells tend to be resistant to conventional treatments, like radiation and chemotherapy, and they are the main culprit behind cancer relapse and metastasis.


Irving Weissman addresses what cancer stem cells are



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