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Nature. 2013 Sep 5;501(7465):107-11. doi: 10.1038/nature12416. Epub 2013 Jul 31.

Induction of intestinal stem cells by R-spondin 1 and Slit2 augments chemoradioprotection.

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Department of Biologic and Materials Sciences, University of Michigan School of Dentistry, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA.


Cancer research has been rightly and successfully focused on prevention, early detection, and identification of specific molecular targets that distinguish the malignant cells from the neighbouring benign cells. However, reducing lethal tissue injury caused by intensive chemoradiotherapy during treatment of late-stage metastatic cancers remains a key clinical challenge. Here we tested whether the induction of adult stem cells could repair chemoradiation-induced tissue injury and prolong overall survival in mice. We found that intestinal stem cells (ISCs) expressed Slit2 and its single-span transmembrane cell-surface receptor roundabout 1 (Robo1). Partial genetic deletion of Robo1 decreased ISC numbers and caused villus hypotrophy, whereas a Slit2 transgene increased ISC numbers and triggered villus hypertrophy. During lethal dosages of chemoradiation, administering a short pulse of R-spondin 1 (Rspo1; a Wnt agonist) plus Slit2 reduced ISC loss, mitigated gut impairment and protected animals from death, without concomitantly decreasing tumour sensitivity to chemotherapy. Therefore Rspo1 and Slit2 may act as therapeutic adjuvants to enhance host tolerance to aggressive chemoradiotherapy for eradicating metastatic cancers.

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