Cancer stem cells for breast cancer research

A news item, Newly created cancer stem cells could aid breast cancer research, by Alyssa Kneller, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research (13 August 2007) is about an article, “Transformation of Different Human Breast Epithelial Cell Types Leads to Distinct Tumor Phenotypes”, Cancer Cell 2007(14 Aug); 12(2): 160-170. The authors are Tan A. Ince, Andrea L. Richardson, George W. Bell, Maki Saitoh, Samuel Godar, Antoine E. Karnoub, James D. Iglehart and Robert A. Weinberg.

The full text isn’t freely accessible from this Cell Press journal. (For previous posts to this blog about Cell Press journals, see: Paying a fee for Green OA, and Stem cell research). Only the Summary is accessible without a subscription:

We investigated the influence of normal cell phenotype on the neoplastic phenotype by comparing tumors derived from two different normal human mammary epithelial cell populations, one of which was isolated using a new culture medium. Transformation of these two cell populations with the same set of genetic elements yielded cells that formed tumor xenografts exhibiting major differences in histopathology, tumorigenicity, and metastatic behavior. While one cell type (HMECs) yielded squamous cell carcinomas, the other cell type (BPECs) yielded tumors closely resembling human breast adenocarcinomas. Transformed BPECs gave rise to lung metastases and were up to 10[power]4-fold more tumorigenic than transformed HMECs, which are nonmetastatic. Hence, the pre-existing differences between BPECs and HMECs strongly influence the phenotypes of their transformed derivatives.

The corresponding author is Robert A. Weinberg, a senior cancer researcher who is the author of a well-received book, Biology of Cancer (Publisher: Garland, 30 June 2006).

A PubMed search for articles authored by RA Weinberg yielded a set of 301 articles. (The article cited above hadn’t been indexed by PubMed yet). Of these 301 articles, links to free full text were provided via PubMed for 108 (36%). Of the most recent 20 articles, 6 have PubMed links to free full text (30%). Searches via Google Scholar and Google quickly revealed free full text versions of 7 of the 14 other articles in the 20 most recent articles indexed by PubMed, for a total of 13/20 (65%). Usually, these latter free full text versions were available because an embargo period had elapsed.

In subsequent posts, I hope to provide more examples of this kind. My reason for an interest in such examples? It’s the leading researchers in various fields of research and scholarship who serve as role models for their more junior colleagues.



  1. tillje said

    Why might junior scientists who support OA in principle still be reluctant “to participate in novel and innovative modes of scientific communication“? Answer: “The bottom line is that it is just to[o] risky to do so“. These quotations were obtained from Alex Palazzo’s blog (see below).

    Peter Murray-Rust’s blog (A Scientist and the Web, 7 August 2007) includes items obtained from the blogs of two junior scientists. It’s about “scifoo: young scientists and the culture of fear“. The two original blog posts are these:

    The Scifoo nature, Brighten the Corners (Andrew Walkinshaw’s blog, 6 August 2007). Excerpt:

    Alex Palazzo and I ran a session today on the politics of scientific communication/open access, particularly for young scientists …


    Scifoo – Day 3 (well that was yesterday, but I just didn’t have the time …), The Daily Transcript (Alex Palazzo’s blog, 6 August 2007, about a session on “Scientific Communication and Young Scientists, the Culture of Fear“). Excerpt:

    The main point that we wanted to make was that there are problems with the current way that we are communicating science and due to developments with Web2.0 applications there is a big push to change how this is done. But we must keep in mind the anxieties and fears of scientists. How we communicate does not only impact how information is disseminated but does affect the careers of the scientists who produce content. Until there is general consensus from the scientific publishing industry, the major funding institutions, and the higher echelons of academia (for example junior faculty search committees), junior scientists are unlikely to participate in novel and innovative modes of scientific communication. The bottom line is that it is just to[o] risky to do so.

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  3. tillje said

    The article by Tan A. Ince and colleagues has attracted the attention of several bloggers. See, for example, Creating cancer stem cells, Bayblab blog, 15 August 2007. The last paragraph:

    -Finally the authors argue that their media selects stem cells. Obviously that’s not true, otherwise both culture conditions would create the same tumours but at different rates depending on the selection stringency. Here they get 2 types of tumour. More likely they’ve either selected for two types of cells or changed the phenotype of the cell with their media. They do acknowledge they have two cell types, but they argue that they have enhanced stemmness, when all they show is they have a different cell with a different probabilistic ability to initiate a totally different cancer type.

  4. tillje said

    For another blog post about the ‘stemness’ of cancer stem cells, see: Taking the ‘Stemness’ Out of Cancer Cells, by Dan Rhoads, Migrations, 28 August 2007.

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