The latest scientific discoveries have highlighted and clarified the biochemical mechanisms controlling cell proliferation and differentiation. While the four transcription factors Oct4, Sox2, Klf4 and cMyc have shown to be sufficient to induce pluripotency in fibroblasts, there has in addition a lot of research studying the mechanisms of cell differentiation and the specific properties of stem cells, in particular their plasticity and capacity for trans-differentiation.
These researches have been fundamental in the field of reparative, regenerative and transplant medicine. In fact the genetic engineering production of regulatory factors identified through such research, has allowed the production of new tissues and a new category of cell therapy products, in which the main biological action is carried out by cells or tissues, even if in the presence of organic or inorganic matrices or coatings. Examples of this type of product are in vitro cultivated skin, products made of cellular elements for the reconstruction of bones, cartilages, teeth, etc. Even more important is the fact that a very analytical and detailed characterization of stem cells allowed the comprehension of tumor cell behaviors, that have a crucial role in determining their malignancy.
The malignant behavior of cancer cells can be attributed to the presence of cells with characteristics similar to those of stem cells. As consequence cancer research have been conceived to identify the metabolic pathways common to tumor and stem cells. This will in turn cast light on which micro-environment factors can direct these pathways towards differentiation and induce tumor cells to behave less aggressively.
Recently there has been a lot of studies which were very important to understand the role of embryonic micro-environment in controlling tumor cell behavior and to revert cancer cells towards normal phenotypes. This research is now underway, and they represent the main subject of this website.
New Paradigm in Medicine
It is important to note that research into the possibility of reprogramming cancer stem cells needs a complex approach to the issue. In fact, the problem requires the study of networks of substances and genes involved in the reprogramming phase, demanding skills in a variety of different areas of research, not simply of medical/biological, but also mathematical and modeling, in view of the complexity and non-linearity of the processes being studied.
This means to change the scientific paradigm and shift from reductionism that studies only single molecules or single mechanism to complexity, as described in the article about the new paradigm in medicine.
The future will witness our engagement in increasing numbers of scientific studies requiring a complex vision of life.
New Paradigm Medicine
Conventional medicine uses chemotherapy and other treatments to kill the damaged cells.
Whereas, in this new medicine, malignant or dysfunctional cells are reprogrammed rather than killed.
Without adverse side effects.
a) morular stage, characterized by merely multiplicatory events and therefore made of totipotent embryo stem cells,
b) medium-blastula/gastrula (50% epiboly), where the totipotent embryo stem cells differentiate into pluripotent ones,
c) five somite stage and
d) 20 somite stage, where important differentiation events, characterizing the intermediate and final embryo differentiation, take place.
All cancer cell lines have shown a significant slowdown in the growth curve when treated with factors drawn during the above-mentioned cell differentiation stages, with inhibition percentages ranging from 73% of the glioblastoma and 26% of the melanoma.
Objective tumor response median overall survival and performance status have been evaluated. Results showed a 19.8% patients who experienced a regression and 16% patients who experienced a stabilization with an overall survival of more than 60% of responsive patients after 40 months, against 10% of non responsive ones.
A wide improvement of performance status has been registered in a great majority of patients (82.6%).