Cancer stem cells are thought to represent the key cell of origin for tumors. They are a self renewing population that can also further differentiate to make the bulk of the tumor mass. Cancer therapies are thought to be ineffective because they target the bulk of the tumor, not the cancer stem cells. It would be highly desirable to be able to identify these cancer stem cells using specific markers, and then use these markers to develop cancer stem cell specific therapeutics.
Stanford researchers have identified a novel variant of the EGFR protein on cancer stem cells (CSCs) and have shown the variant is present in a wide variety of human tumors including those from the brain, breast, ovary, colon, lung and prostate. They have developed a method to identify and characterize CSCs using the presence of this novel variant and have developed a biospecific antibody that utilizes recombinant antibodies against both this novel variant of the EGFR protein and CD133, a known cancer stem cell marker. These findings represent a novel approach to potential diagnostics and therapeutics for a wide range of human cancers.