Although cancer is known for its ability to spread rapidly, most cancer cells actually possess limited capabilities to multiply. Recent studies indicate, however, that a minority of cells can repair themselves and reproduce via cell division. Scientists theorize that these cells initiate tumors and, in some cases, revive them after the initial tumor is thought to have been completely eradicated.
Tumor-initiating cells appear to share some of the traits of normal stem cells. Stem cells serve as the master cells of the body and are able to reproduce throughout their lives and adapt to assume new functions. In addition to having phenotypes similar to those of stem cells, tumor-initiating cells contain surface markers that are like those of human stem cells. With these comparable characteristics, researchers continue to test pharmaceutical products and other potential therapies that target tumor-initiating cells as a means of eradicating cancer.
About Ellen Scharaga: The Senior Vice President of Oncology Pharmacy Services at OncoMed Pharmaceutical Services, Ellen Scharaga oversees a busy working pharmacy. In this capacity, she hires and trains new recruits, manages inventory, and directs compliance and best practices activities.