Research Update

Dr. John Kuo, the doctor who was awarded the professorship, wrote about the research he is doing with the HEADRUSH fund.

Recent work has overturned an underlying assumption in cancer biology - that every cancer cell has equivalent cancer initiation and growth properties. Research on cancers of the brain, breast, colon and blood cells revealed that a small subpopulation of cancer cells have properties similar to normal stem cells, and are highly efficient in cancer initiation and growth. These cancer stem cells (CSC) may be viewed as the 'seeds' of rapid cancer recurrence, therefore targeting CSC is an essential goal in creating better cancer therapies.

In Dr. John S. Kuo's Brain Tumor Research Lab at the University of Wisconsin, we are investigating the role of brain CSC in oncogenesis by comparing the molecular biology of brain CSC and normal neural stem cells (NSC). Shared CSC and NSC properties include multi-potency, self-renewal and expression of stem cell surface markers. In contrast, we found that brain CSC possess enhanced resistance to current radiation and chemotherapies, which may explain why current aggressive treatments fail to prevent rapid brain cancer recurrence. Through the approaches of global gene expression analysis, characterization and testing in cell culture and animal models, we aim to discover and exploit unique molecular biology properties of brain CSC to create novel, effective and safe biological therapies that specifically target these pernicious cancer cells and minimize injury to normal NSC and brain.