A recent study by the researchers from UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy and University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center have established stem cells grafted from skin cells that can hunt cancer and thus deliver drugs to decimate medulloblastoma tumors growing faster after surgery.
Previously, in a study, it has been shown that such stem cells could deliver drugs to glioblastoma cells (deadliest cancer cells). Now in the new study appearing in PLOS ONE shows that these can also be used to target medulloblastoma cells and prolong patient life. It is most important to see if this works for children.
Hingtgen from UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy says that chemotherapy and radiation are very harmful to the developing brain in children, hence, the new alternative treatment could bring a quality of life benefits. He and his team studied the natural ability of stem cells to reach tumors and utilized it like a FedEx truck that can lead to the right location and feed cytotoxic drugs to the tumor cells. He claims that the skin cells are converted into something that can crawl to find infiltrative tumors.
Laboratory models of the brain after receiving surgery when they were inserted with these drug-fed stem cells showed 15 times decrease in tumors’ size. Average survival in mice was observed to be 133%. Their lives were prolonged by 123% when inserted with human stem cells.
It was also discovered that after surgically removing the tumor from the brain through standard treatment, the remaining cancer cells tend to grow faster and became aggressive. Scott Elton, a co-author of the study, calls it a holy grail if the stem cells made from patients’ own cells can be used to target these tumor cells. They can also be made beneficial for other rare types of brain cancers in children. He acknowledges that most of the medulloblastoma cases occur in children and side effects with this alternative can be dramatic but with more exploration, it would be made better for that 30 % of children for whom standard therapy does not work.
It is hoped that this treatment could be an effective alternative to standard treatment which comes with developmental and neurological side effects and prolong patients’ lives.