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See Inside July 2006

Stem Cells: 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

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After more than 30 years of declared war on cancer, a few important victories can be claimed, such as 85 percent survival rates for some childhood cancers whose diagnoses once represented a death sentence. In other malignancies, new drugs are able to at least hold the disease at bay, making it a condition with which a patient can live. In 2001, for example, Gleevec was approved for the treatment of chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). The drug has been a huge clinical success, and many patients are now in remission following treatment with Gleevec. But evidence strongly suggests that these patients are not truly cured, because a reservoir of malignant cells responsible for maintaining the disease has not been eradicated.


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