Stem Cell & Fundamental Science Working Group

One of the greatest challenges of the 21st century is disease associated with aging. Cancer, neurodegeneration and heart disease are all major causes of death and have an enormous impact on quality of life. Over recent years, a revolution in biology has meant that effective regenerative medicine, using stem cells to replace and repair damaged tissue is now on the horizon. Naturally occurring ‘immortal’ stem cells are present in all tissues of the body and act to replace loss of cells in tissues with rapid turnover, for example in the skin, blood or intestine, or to repair damage as in wound healing. Harnessing the power of stem cells to regenerate damaged tissue in a range of diseases, or to generate tissue for organ repair following radical surgery, is a key goal. Yet how we can effectively manipulate stem cells for therapeutic use, and how we ensure their survival, for example after transplantation, remain major challenges.

The identification of physiological stem cells that regenerate tissues led to the discovery of stem-like cells in cancer. Cancer stem cells are resistant to therapy and provide a reservoir of cells able to regenerate tumours with their associated genetic heterogeneity, even many years after apparently successful therapy. Understanding the origins of cancer stem cells, how they are activated, and how they can be eradicated are key goals that must be met if we are to develop effective anti-cancer therapies.

The members of the Stem Cell & Fundamental Science working group are:

Oxford Stem Cell and Cancer Institute

The CRUK Oxford Centre is proud to have partnered with the Oxford Stem Cell and Cancer Institute (OSCCI) to create the Stem Cell Working Group.

The OSSCI comprises over 40 laboratories across Oxford, and recognises that the development of more effective stem cell and anti-cancer therapies would benefit from cross-disciplinary research that breaks the traditional taxonomic barriers boundaries between cancer, development and regenerative medicine. For example, the ability of transplanted stem cells to survive in their new environment is something that cancer performs very effectively; cells that leave the primary tumour are readily able to colonize new tissues to form metastases. Understanding the process of metastatic spread will therefore inform regenerative medicine. Similarly research on the stem cell niche, or on the molecular mechanisms that drive the physiological process of stem cell renewal is relevant to understanding how the tumour microenvironment will trigger the genesis of cancer stem cells. Similarly, the generation of induced pluripotent cells by reprogramming factors is very similar to the pathological reprogramming of cells that occurs in cancer. The OSCCI aims to break the barriers between these related fields to promote synergistic interactions directed towards delivering effective stem cell-related therapies.

Be part of the Stem Cell & Fundamental Science working group

We are always keen to welcome new members to our working groups, and value contributions from those working in disciplines not traditionally linked to cancer research. If you want to find out more about oesophageal cancer research, have some research that you think may be of interest to this group, or would like to make connections within this community then please get in touch with the Cancer Research UK Oxford Centre team on cancercentre@oncology.ox.ac.uk