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The Ludwig Boltzmann Cluster contributes to the classification of neoplastic stem cells

How does cancer develop and how do cancer stem cells evolve? These questions have been asked for some time without finding satisfactory answers. In general, the cancerous process is thought to be a lengthy, step-by-step process controlled by many factors. The cancer stem cells are regarded as the primary evil and root of the malignant process. The definition of the cancer stem cells and their precursors, which gradually develop through more and more generations from normal stem cells into initially premalignant and finally completely malignant stem cells (true cancer stem cells), is a far-reaching topic. In Vienna too, various research groups are involved in the evolution of cancer stem cells. The Vienna Cancer Stem Cell Club (VCSCC) and the Ludwig Boltzmann Cluster Oncology around Professor Dr. Peter Valent (Medical University of Vienna, Department of Medicine I) have dealt with this topic for many years.

A key issue in LBC ONC is to develop effective drugs and therapies that permanently inhibit or completely destroy cancer stem cells. In 2011, the VCSCC, under the leadership of Professor Valent, organized a working conference on this subject in Vienna (Year 2011 Working Conference on Cancer Stem Cells), attended by many representatives of the LBC ONC. The resulting recommendations for the definition and classification of neoplastic stem cells are published in the recent issue of the 'Nature Reviews Cancer' journal, October 11, 2012. The classification of neoplastic stem cells 2012 also crowns VCSCC’s 10th anniversary with a festive symposium held in the Society of Doctors (Frankgasse 8 - Billrothhaus).

The biology of the cancer stem cells and the mechanisms and factors that cause or favour their formation from normal tissue cells are much more complex than initially assumed. Accordingly, it was difficult to develop a generally valid and applicable definition and classification of cancer stem cells. Ultimately, the stem cell types are distinguished by a different proliferative capacity and a different ability to produce premalignant, less malignant (indolent) or highly malignant (aggressive, invasive) neoplasia. An important aspect is that malignant cancer stem cells can develop over time (often many years) from premaligned neoplastic stem cells. However, the mechanisms underlying this stem cell evolution are currently unknown. Nevertheless, the corresponding (mostly genome-comprehensive) projects are promising and will contribute to a better understanding of cancer and leukemia development. The ultimate goal is to permanently destroy cancer stem cells and, if possible, their premalignant precursors in the various neoplasms.