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EMBO J. 2009 Jan 7;28(1):8-20. doi: 10.1038/emboj.2008.253. Epub 2008 Nov 27.

Cancer induction by restriction of oncogene expression to the stem cell compartment.

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Experimental Therapeutics and Translational Oncology Program, Instituto de Biología Molecular y Celular del Cáncer, CSIC/Universidad de Salamanca, Salamanca, Spain.


In human cancers, all cancerous cells carry the oncogenic genetic lesions. However, to elucidate whether cancer is a stem cell-driven tissue, we have developed a strategy to limit oncogene expression to the stem cell compartment in a transgenic mouse setting. Here, we focus on the effects of the BCR-ABLp210 oncogene, associated with chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) in humans. We show that CML phenotype and biology can be established in mice by restricting BCR-ABLp210 expression to stem cell antigen 1 (Sca1)(+) cells. The course of the disease in Sca1-BCR-ABLp210 mice was not modified on STI571 treatment. However, BCR-ABLp210-induced CML is reversible through the unique elimination of the cancer stem cells (CSCs). Overall, our data show that oncogene expression in Sca1(+) cells is all that is required to fully reprogramme it, giving rise to a full-blown, oncogene-specified tumour with all its mature cellular diversity, and that elimination of the CSCs is enough to eradicate the whole tumour.

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