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Other Talks in the Series: Cancer Genetics

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In the earlier lecture, I described the fact that one can describe the hierarchical organization of cells within a carcinoma in terms of self-renewing, tumor-initiating cancer stem cells, indicated here in this first slide with the blue cells, which are self-renewing stem-like cells. And the bulk of cells in a tumor indicated here in the gray and the red, which differ from one another in that the gray and red cells have undergone a measure of differentiation which takes them out of the stem-like state and places them in a state where they no longer have stem-like properties and they no longer, therefore, have the ability to serve as tumor-initiating cells. I argued in the earlier lecture that, in fact, cells that have lost this tumor initiating ability are poor candidates for serving as the founders of new metastatic colonies, because they no longer have this tumor initiating capability. Still, this diagram, as pleasing as it might be, required some critical examination. Among other questions was the following one. Given the fact that the blue stem-like cells can differentiate into gray cells, is this process, of an arrow leading straight down from the stem-like cells, to the non-stem cells, irreversible? Or are there more complexities that operate in governing the interactions and the interconversions between, for example, the gray cells and the blue cells? And this caused Christine Chaffer to begin to examine what happens when one, for example, isolates the non stem-like cells, transit-amplifying cells, as they're depicted here. What happens when one places them in culture or in a living animal? How do they behave thereafter? And her evidence began to accumulate that the diagram that I show you here needs to be revised.