Researchers at the University of California Irvine have created a method of engineering mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to specifically target and help destroy cancer metastasis, which is an indicator of cancer spreading and the cause of approximately 90% of cancer deaths. The researchers are utilizing MSCs that have been engineered to detect stiffened tissues, a typical indicator of breast cancer metastases. These stem cells then release an enzyme upon detection of the cancer cells that triggers the activation of a localized chemotherapy. This is a revolutionary method of treating cancer given that one of the biggest concerns with chemotherapy is its ability to not only harm cancer cells, but also harm healthy cells as well.
“Our new type of treatment only targets metastatic tissue, which enables us to avoid some of conventional chemotherapy’s unwanted side effects,” says Dr. Weian Zhao, professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the university. He also added that though this treatment was focused on breast cancer metastases, “… the technology will be applicable to other metastases as well, because many solid tumors have the hallmark of being stiffer than normal tissue. Therefore, our system is innovative and powerful, as we don’t have to spend the time to identify and develop a new genetic or protein marker for every kind of cancer.”
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