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Chemotherapy drug may in fact strengthen some cancer cells

Study suggests different therapies are needed to treat different cells

A standard chemotherapy drug may make a small but aggressive population of brain cancer cells even more deadly, a study in the March 6 Cell Stem Cell reports. Understanding how these cells turn dangerous may ultimately lead to better ways to destroy brain tumors.

“This really shows how important it is that we have therapies against different populations of cells,” says Anders Persson of the University of California, San Francisco, who coauthored a commentary in the same issue of Cell Stem Cell. “You can’t just give one treatment and think it will kill every cell.”

The most common cancer originating in adults’ brains — glioblastoma multiforme — is particularly complex and notoriously resistant to standard treatments. The resistance may be caused by small numbers of cancer cells called side populations, says Eric Holland, a neurosurgeon at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and coauthor of the new study.

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