It was national news when Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts was diagnosed with brain cancer last May. Then, just weeks later, veteran political columnist Robert Novak also was found to have a malignant brain tumor. Suddenly, the public was awash in a flood of stories about this deadly form of cancer. The fresh focus on this disease comes at a critical time, as scientists explore a new theory that could unlock the mystery of brain cancer—and other cancers as well.
Paradoxically, adult stem cells may be both the cause of cancer and a cure for it. That theory, barely discussed even five years ago, has captivated the country’s leading researchers, including Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, M.D., a 40-year-old one-time farm worker from Mexico who now heads the Brain Tumor Center at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore.