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Researchers in Australia report having isolated the stem cell that controls the growth of breast tissue and having used it to grow breasts in mice, developments that could lead the way to new breast cancer treatments, Agence France-Presse reports. The Melbourne-based scientists, writing in Thursday's edition of the journal Nature, say their findings will allow them to study how normal breast tissue develops as well as how some faulty cells that can become cancerous also appear in otherwise healthy breast tissue.
The research may be of particular importance to women who have already been treated for breast cancer with chemotherapy, the researchers say. Chemotherapy kills fast-replicating cancer cells but may leave behind slower-dividing faulty stem cells that can produce additional cancerous cells in the future. By discovering how these faulty stem cells function, the researchers could devise new treatments to disable them or genetic therapies to prevent them from being formed in the first place.
"Although many people respond quite well to treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, unfortunately a significant proportion of people relapse with their disease at a time subsequent to that," researcher Mark Shackleton told ABC radio. "And it may be [that] treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy don't actually target those cells within a mass of cancer."
But the researchers caution that their discovery probably won't yield any new treatments for another 10 to 20 years because of the complexity of the research. (Advocate.com)