Stem cells as cancer therapy

December 26, 2006

It is widely hoped that neural stem cells will eventually be useful for replacing nerves damaged by degenerative diseases like Alzheimer disease and multiple sclerosis. But there may also be another use for such stem cells--delivering anti-cancer drugs to cancer cells.

A Perspective article in PLoS Medicine, by Professor Riccardo Fodde (Erasmus Medical Center, The Netherlands), discusses a new study in mice, published in the launch issue of PLoS ONE that showed that neural stem cells could be used to help deliver anti-cancer drugs to metastatic cancer cells.

One of the characteristics of neural stem cells is their tendency to move towards diseased areas (scientists call this phenomenon "pathotropism"). This characteristic, says Professor Fodde, "makes them particularly attractive candidates not only to replace damaged tissue in degenerative pathologies, but also to deliver therapeutic molecules in patients with disseminated metastatic cancer."

In the study published in PLoS ONE, Karen Aboody and colleagues report on the eradication of disseminated metastases in a mouse model of a cancer called neuroblastoma. The researchers took advantage of the tumor-tropic (selective migration towards cance r cells) properties of neural stem cells engineered to express an enzyme that activates an anti-cancer drug.

It is much too early to know whether this study in mice will lead to any kind of valuable treatment for humans with cancer. Clinical trials in humans are needed before doctors can know whether stem cells have a role in cancer therapy. Professor Fodde also says that there will be a number of concerns about the safety of such human trials, which he discusses in his Perspective.

Source: Public Library of Science

Explore further: Researchers develop a method for controlling gene activation

Related Stories

Researchers develop a method for controlling gene activation

September 8, 2015

Researchers at the University of Helsinki, Finland, have developed a new method which enables the activation of genes in a cell without changing the genome. Applications of the method include directing the differentiation ...

Dually noted: New CRISPR-Cas9 strategy edits genes two ways

September 7, 2015

The CRISPR-Cas9 system has been in the limelight mainly as a revolutionary genome engineering tool used to modify specific gene sequences within the vast sea of an organism's DNA. Cas9, a naturally occurring protein in the ...

Team develops targeted drug delivery to lung

September 2, 2015

Researchers from Columbia Engineering and Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) have developed a new method that can target delivery of very small volumes of drugs into the lung. Their approach, in which micro-liters ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

( -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.