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Contrib Microbiol. 2006;13:45-65.

Adult stem cell theory of the multi-stage, multi-mechanism theory of carcinogenesis: role of inflammation on the promotion of initiated stem cells.

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Department of Pediatrics and Human Development, National Food Safety Toxicology Center, College of Human Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich. 48824, USA.


Inflammation, induced by microbial agents, radiation, endogenous or exogenous chemicals, has been associated with chronic diseases, including cancer. Since carcinogenesis has been characterized as consisting of the 'initiation', 'promotion' and 'progression' phases, the inflammatory process could affect any or all three phases. The stem cell theory of carcinogenesis has been given a revival, in that isolated human adult stem cells have been isolated and shown to be 'targets' for neoplastic transformation. Oct4, a transcription factor, has been associated with adult stem cells, as well as their immortalized and tumorigenic derivatives, but not with the normal differentiated daughters. These data are consistent with the stem cell theory of carcinogenesis. In addition, Gap Junctional Intercellular Communication (GJIC) seems to play a major role in cell growth. Inhibition of GJIC by non-genotoxic chemicals or various oncogenes seems to be the mechanism for the tumor promotion and progression phases of carcinogenesis. Many of the toxins, synthetic non-genotoxicants, and endogenous inflammatory factors have been shown to inhibit GJIC and act as tumor promoters. The inhibition of GJIC might be the mechanism by which the inflammatory process affects cancer and that to intervene during tumor promotion with anti-inflammatory factors might be the most efficacious anti-cancer strategy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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