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Cancer Res. 2007 Oct 1;67(19):8985-8.

The fuzzy math of solid tumor stem cells: a perspective.

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  • 1Department of Oncology, The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland 21231, USA.


Apparently effective therapeutic agents very often fail to cure cancer patients. It is therefore attractive to wonder whether a specific resistant cell subset should be recognized and separately targeted. In solid tumors, such as carcinomas, a minor population of "cancer stem cells" has been proposed and sought experimentally in human tumors and isolated cell populations. It is often overlooked that the rationale and supportive data are essentially numerical and can be evaluated as such. A reevaluation of the published studies and related claims within awarded U.S. patents suggests that the mathematical support for the concept of therapeutically useful stem cells is weak and may even invalidate the foundations of these publications and patent claims. Mathematical arguments should be used more consistently, because they can serve as a guide for interpreting studies into cancer stem cells of solid tumors.

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