My blog reader/friend Paul raised a very interesting question, for which I didn’t have a satisfactory answer, so I asked the general MMA myeloma patients list (link here on the right-hand side). Based on his comment (see my recent post on zerumbone), my question was: do cancer stem cells die?

I received more or less the following answer (in italics; I edited small parts of it) from a list member/doctor who takes cyclopamine and knows a lot about stem cells:

Stem cells, whether healthy or cancerous, are supposed to last a lifetime. Do some die off? Yes. For instance, the main reason people age is that they gradually lose their healthy stem cells.
But cancer stem cells have a lot of telomerase, which keeps their telomeres long, and keeps them essentially immortal. Cyclopamine (extracted from the corn lily, see photo) causes the cancerous stem cells to differentiate and turn into mature cancer cells without making more copies of cancer stem cells. (Aha!)
Now, mature cancer cells (plasma cells in myeloma) do die off. They are not immortal. So, in theory, if you kill off all the cancer stem cells, then eventually the cancer cells die, too. This is the basis of using cyclopamine
Some research shows that some cancer cells may be able to turn back into cancer stem cells. That could be a problem, but if you target both the cancer stem cells and the mature cancer cells, then the problem is solved. Of course, continuous treatment of the cancer stem cell would also take care of the problem.
In a nutshell, then, cancer stem cells are immortal. But if we manage to block certain signalling pathways, we can turn them into mortal cancer cells. My haematologist said that myeloma cells may live for weeks or even months. That depends on a lot of factors. But eventually, they kick the bucket. This makes me wonder if zerumbone has the same effect that cyclopamine has on cancer stem cells…that is, does it turn them into regular cancer cells? Good question. No answer…yet.

Fascinating topic. In addition, Paul’s comment led me to make a series of connections that I had begun to make some months ago, but then had set aside only to rediscover this morning. Thank you so much, Paul!

Oh, I do hope my current bit of research will lead to some useful information. Okay, I have to go feed my cats now.


  1. Hi Margaret,
    This morning I came across the following article:
    It talks about TDZD-8 which apparently gets rid of Leukemia stem cells in 15 minutes without damaging normal plasma stem cells.
    The bad news is that you need a lot of it and it’s mechanism is “off-target” and not properly understood.
    The good news is that at least the researchers are aiming for the root of the problem now.
    PS TDZD-8 is apparently available on-line – $120 for 5mg.

  2. Hey!

    Very discouraging topics I must say. AND very true and real ones, too.

    I just write to say “I’m sorry Margaret for the outcome of the elections.”

    But I’m sure that doesn’t make the beauty of Florence, Tuscany or Italy any lesser.

    Best wishes!

    Robert, Slovenia

  3. On the contrary Robert, this is very ENcouraging. At least the doctors are now focussing on the right target and they appear to have bullets that work.

  4. I agree with Paul.
    And I also agree with Robert when you say that the outcome of the Italian elections doesn’t affect the beauty of this region, etc. Very true.
    For now, anyway, I have put off packing my bags for the North Pole. 😉
    Those who understand Italian should check out this short video for a post-election smile:

  5. And I agree with both of you 🙂

    BUT – it’s just the semantics what I really meant. Just the word at the title (and I used the wrong word in English, of course – instead of the title I used topic…) makes me feel weird. But that’s just me. Sorry…

    And these kind of bullets you’re talking about Paul I really pray for! These ones should take place in national budgets instead of deadly ones!


  6. Your English is spot on this time Robert. It’s easily to be misunderstood when you are writing things – even when English (or American) is your first language. Anyway you should see my Slovenian 🙂

  7. 🙂 well, to be honest – I would be very surprised if you (as an American) even KNEW where this tiny little country is, not to talk about the language.

    Anyway – thanks for all the informations. I must tell you that I did all (or at least most of) the tests you recommended me here when I first wrote a comment. They were all negative (celiac, ANA…).

    Be well!


  8. Hi Robert,
    I’m British and I not only know where Slovenia is; I’ve been there. It’s a beautiful country.
    I came out negative in the celiac tests I had too. People on another BB are saying that the only reliable one is the genetic test. I haven’t had that but I’m going to keep up the gluten free diet because I feel better now.

  9. GREAT that you feel better and GREAT that you’ve been to Slovenia :-)! I heard that there are a lot of British investments in country-houses in one region in SLO. Well, we are citizens of a big mother Europe and the borders do vanish.

    I’m not on a gluten free diet, but I’m trying to follow the Livingston one, though not as strict as it should be, I must admit. But anyway, I do feel better and have much less skin problems. I’m not in a very good condition due to immunotherapy though…

    Stay well!


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