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Best Pract Res Clin Haematol. 2007 Mar;20(1):13-8.

The leukemic stem cell.

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James P. Wilmot Cancer Center, University of Rochester School of Medicine, 601 Elmwood Ave, Box 703, Rochester, NY 14642, USA.


Malignant stem cells have recently been described as the source of several types of human cancer. These unique cell types are typically rare and possess properties that are distinct from most other tumor cells. The properties of leukemic stem cells indicate that current chemotherapy drugs will not be effective. The use of current cytotoxic agents is not effective in leukemia because the agents target both the leukemic and normal stem cell populations. Consequently, new strategies are required that specifically and preferentially target the malignant stem cell population, while sparing normal stem cells. Several well known agents are lethal for the leukemic stem cell in preclinical testing. They include parthenolide, commonly known as feverfew, and TDZD-8. They have undergone various levels of preclinical development, but have not been used in patients as yet in the cancer setting. These drugs and combinations of existing therapies that target the leukemic stem cell population may provide a cure in this disease. This article summarizes recent findings in the leukemic stem cell field and discusses new directions for therapy.

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