A breakthrough with cancer stem cells may lead to more potent drugs—ones that pair with chemotherapy in the sort of drug cocktail used against AIDS, reports the New York Times. If borne out, the development—in which researchers figured out how to screen for chemicals that attack only cancerous stem cells—could eventually lead to lower doses of chemo and thus less distress for patients.
The current chemo regimen has a flaw, the Times notes: While it can wipe out 99% of the cells in a tumor, it leaves behind stem cells that can cause the cancer to regenerate. The new findings, which have their share of skeptics, could allow researchers to develop precise drug combos. “We have not been able to do that yet with cancer,” said one scientist involved with the project. “But, if we could, it’s a numbers game, and we win.”