A study published in the journal Stem Cells revealed that stem cells can be used to fight brain cancer. The study was headed by a neuroscientist at Harvard University in Cambridge MA.
Scientists describe in the study how they successfully got the cells to produce and release toxins that kill only tumor cells.
The study found that the toxin-releasing stem cells eliminated cancer cells left behind in mouse brains following tumor removal.
In a previous study, researchers showed how stem cells loaded with herpes can kill brain tumors. This new study described how genetically engineered stem cells that make and secrete toxins that kill brain cancer cells without themselves being affected.
The toxins that the stem cells make are cytotoxins. Cytotoxins enter and kill cells within days by stopping their ability to make proteins. The inability to make proteins prevents the cells from growing, dividing and reproducing.
Cytotoxins are deadly to all cells; in the late 1990s scientists discovered a way to tag them so they only entered cancer cells with certain molecules on their surfaces. Normal cells though the surface molecules are left unharmed.
Up until now, cancer-killing toxins have been successful in a variety of blood cancer, but haven’t worked as well in solid tumors because the cancers aren’t as accessible and the toxins have a short life.
Researchers put the stem cells inside a capsule of biodegradable gel that was inserted in the tumor site after removal. This method appeared to overcome the problems of approaches that have tried to deliver purified cancer-killing toxins into patients’ brains methods that have not succeeded in clinical trials.
The team is now seeking federal approval for their research and other stem cell techniques they have developed in order to proceed to clinical trials.