A screen for cancer killers

From Nature:

News.2009 A new approach for identifying drugs that specifically attack cancer stem cells, the cellular culprits that are thought to start and maintain tumour growth, could change the way that drug companies and scientists search for therapies in the war against cancer. “We now have a systematic method that had not been previously known that allows us to find agents that target cancer stem cells,” says Piyush Gupta of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and first author of the study, published online today in Cell.

Applying the technique, Gupta and his colleagues discovered one of the first compounds that can selectively destroy cancer stem cells. The drug, an antibiotic commonly fed to pigs and chickens, reduces the proportion of breast cancer stem cells by more than 100-fold compared with a drug widely used in chemotherapy for breast cancer.

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