Can magnetic changes affect cancer cells

The tumor's nucleus

Marieke Essers from Trumpp's team may have already found an attractant that can induce cancer stem cells in the blood to leave their shelter: interferon-alpha, a long-known endogenous messenger substance that is already used in cancer therapy. Essers observed that mice are extremely sensitive to chemotherapy after interferon treatment.


“Chemotherapy kills all blood cells,” explains the lively biologist from the Netherlands, “but the mice usually recover after a few days because their stem cells supply new blood cells. Obviously, this no longer works if we give the mice interferon before treatment. "

Presumably the interferon treatment had awakened the dormant stem cells, lured them out of their niche and thus delivered them to the deadly active ingredients of chemotherapy. “We are now planning a clinical study with Professor Andreas Hochhaus from the Jena University Hospital. We want to give blood cancer patients interferon before drug treatment and then check whether we can also get the cancer stem cells with the drug, "describes Trumpp.

No relapse after interferon treatment

A recent clinical observation shows that the interferon wake-up method could be successful: of the dozen blood cancer patients who stopped taking their medication (imatinib), most suffered a relapse. In some patients, however, it returned

the disease does not return. To this day, two years after stopping therapy, you can manage without imatinib. It was found that precisely these patients had been treated with interferon before drug therapy.

"This suggests that interferon has lured cancer stem cells out of their niche," Trumpp interprets the observation. The now defenseless cells were presumably eliminated by the therapy like the other cancer cells and the cancer - possibly - cured. The therapy of the future could look like this: With a brief administration of interferon or other substances, cancer stem cells are awakened from their deep sleep and lured out of their niche. Then they are destroyed once and for all with drugs.

Armin Ehninger hopes to complete his doctoral thesis in one or two years and then to know more about how MYC genes control the function of blood-forming stem cells. Once you have a deeper understanding of the biological basis, he speculates, it might one day be possible to use one of the MYC genes to fight entrenched cancer stem cells. "This is

a big goal, ”he says,“ and it's a long way to get there. ”He slips on his laboratory gloves, reaches for the next Petri dish and says goodbye with a smile:“ And that's why I have to continue working now ”.

German Cancer Research Center, Insight magazine / Claudia Eberhard-Metzger
Status: 08/12/2011