Stem cells are not the only potential source of cancer

The latest medical discoveries from around the country.

September 6, 2015 03:18
4 minute read.
A scientist prepares protein samples for analysis in a lab

A scientist prepares protein samples for analysis in a lab at the Institute of Cancer Research in Sutton. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Cancer researchers yearn to add another brick in the wall that could eventually lead the demise of the biggest killer disease in the Western world. Now scientists at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba say they had made a discovery that contributes to advancement in the fight – another brick, and a significant one.

Prof. Sergio Lamprecht of the clinical biochemistry and pharmacology department in the Health Sciences Faculty and Prof. Alexander Fish, head of the gastroenterology, aimed at identifying cells that undergo genetic changes and multiply in an uncontrolled way. If this multiplication is halted early, it can prevent the cells’ development and metastasis. Over the years, it was commonly believed among oncology researchers that adult stem cells are the only ones that can turn into preliminary cancer cells.

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A year ago, Lamprecht suggested, in the context or colon cancer, that there are additional types of adult “daughter” cells that divide and undergo differentiation and can also serve as a potential target for genetic changes that occur outside the region where stem cells are located.

His hypothesis was supported by a large number of experimental research in the field. It as proven that stem cells and preliminary cancer cells are not necessary of the same type of cell and that the primary genetic change can harm daughter cells that are not stem cells, not only in the gastrointestinal system but also in other tissues.

The research findings presented clear evidence that healthy adult cells can acquire the characteristics of stem cells and replace those missing as a reaction to the loss of stem cells or tissue damage (known as “plasticity of daughter cells”). A similar process is carried out by cancer cells that are not stem cells when they adopt the behavior of stem cells and take their place.

The BGU research, which presents a new approach, was recently published in the journal Carcinogenesis, presents new ideas for continuation of the work focusing on the implications of the discovery in preventing and treating cancer.


Music therapy has been found to reduce anxiety for women undergoing surgical breast biopsies for cancer diagnosis and treatment, according to a first-of-its-kind study recently carried out at Case Reserve University Hospitals’ Seidman Cancer Center in Ohio and published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first randomized controlled trial to test music therapy for anxiety management with women undergoing outpatient breast cancer surgery, and the largest study of its kind to use live music therapy in the surgical arena,” said lead author and music therapist Jaclyn Bradley-Palmer. “Our aim was to determine if music therapy affected anxiety levels, anesthesia requirements, recovery time and patient satisfaction with the surgical experience,” she said.

Patients were randomly assigned to one of three study groups. One listened to preferred live music before surgery, the second listened to preferred recorded music, and the third experienced usual care with no music before surgery. The participants who listened to either recorded or live music, selected their song choice, which was downloaded and played or learned and performed by the music therapist preoperatively.

“We discovered that anxiety levels dropped significantly from pre-test to post-test in patients who heard one preferred song of either live or recorded music before surgery,” said Bradley-Palmer. “In this trial, both live and recorded preoperative music therapy interventions reduced anxiety significantly more than usual preoperative management by 28 and 27 points, representing percent reductions of 43 percent and 41 percent, respectively.”

Whether patients heard live music or pre-recorded music before surgery, music therapists in both instances would engage the patients for five minutes in a short music therapy session which included the preferred song, conversation over the music choice and processing of any emotions which may have arisen. During surgery, the two groups that experienced live or recorded music, also listened to staff-selected, pre-recorded harp music through headphones, carefully chosen for its smooth melodic lines, stable rhythms and consistent dynamics.

A control group received usual pre-operative care with no music therapy and awaited surgery in typical fashion.

The control group was given noise blocking earmuffs during surgery to cancel out any potential music played by the surgeon. “There wasn’t a significant difference in anxiety between live music and recorded music,” added Bradley-Palmer. “It seems like music, no matter how it is delivered, had a similar effect on reducing a patient’s preoperative anxiety.

“Women facing surgery for breast cancer diagnosis and treatment may be understandably anxious as they face the unknown,” concluded Bradley-Palmer. “By offering the additional care of preferred music therapy, women may be comforted and supported by familiar melodies and lyrics that offer the expected and familiar during an unusual time and environment…I hope that our findings will inspire other hospitals to implement surgical music therapy so that many patients may benefit in the future.”

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