CB 399: Cancer Stem Cells Fall 2011

Intellectual Unit:


Cancer Stem Cells
Lecturers: Carla Kim, Kornelia Polyak and David Langenau
Curriculum Fellow: Narveen Jandu

An active area of research in Cancer Biology is to determine the cellular origins of tumors and to understand tumor cell heterogeneity, often referred to as the concept of cancer stem cells. Cancer stem cells may be defined as those cells with stem cell-like features and the unique ability to propagate the tumor phenotype. Several current models of the connections between normal tissue-specific stem cells and cancer stem cells are under active investigation. This course aims to cover the fundamentals and current controversies surrounding cancer stem cells.  We will address the concepts of cancer stem cell biology, cells of origin of malignancy, and tumor evolution, as well as different models to study the concept of tumor cell heterogeneity. 



First Session: Friday, December 2, 2011 1-4 pm
Location: TMEC building, room 227

Second Session: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 1:30-3:30 pm
Location: MGH Charlestown - 13th street, Building 149 - Room 4501 at 1:30

Preceded by a Special Seminar: 

"Stem cells in cancer: are they real and relevant"

Dr. John Dick, Professor, Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto

December 7th at 12:15 pm in the Isselbacher Auditorium, at CNY Floor 7

Link to Partner's Shuttle Schedule: http://www.partners.org/Shuttle_Schedules.aspx

Student Assignment:

All registered students taking this course for credit, are required to prepare in-depth and detailed answers to at least three of the questions below. These answers can be based on what you heard in the lectures on Day 1 or from your readings, should be thoughtful and aimed at stimulating an insightful discussion. You may also choose to prepare an experimental design on how you might approach answering a current research question in the field. On Day 2 of this nanocourse, you should come prepared to discuss your answers with the group and the lecturers. This assignment must be submitted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 for credit. 



1. To what extent does each tumor type fit the cancer stem cell hypothesis? Is the cancer stem cell phenotype reversible? Discuss the connections between cancer stem cells and metastasis? To what extent is regulation genetic vs. epigenetic

2.What controls the function of tumor propagating cells? How does the microenvironment control tumor propagating cells? How to specifically target tumor propagating cells without harming normal stem cells?

3. How to monitor effects of cancer stem cell treatment? Provide proof that cancer stem cell are the cause of chemoresistance? Can the cancer stem cell phenotype change as tumors evolve or with treatment?

4. How would you prove which cell population is key to disease progression and therapeutic resistance in human patient samples and in experimental models.

5. What do you think the selection that favors intratumor heterogeneity and how would you test your hypotheses?

6.  What does the current literature suggest about the existence of Cancer Stem Cells in Melanoma?  How does this impact the conclusions of the three papers discussed in class?  Finally, which model of tumor propagation do you find the most compelling (if any) to account for tumor propagating potential in melanoma?

7. What does the literature tell us about leukemic stem cells?  Do they exist and if so, which leukemias appear to have a molecularly defined leukemia-propagating cell?  Does the data in these papers support a Cancer Stem Cell model or are other models possible?



DROP DEADLINE: Friday, November 25, 2011