Researchers are utilizing mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) infusions to help heal severe tissue damage following radiation treatments. Often, when patients receive treatment for cancer, the process involves painful and prolonged side effects from the chemotherapy and radiation, which significantly impacts the patients’ quality of life, even when in remission. MSC intravenous infusions demonstrated both healing properties and resulted in a reduction of pain and fistulization (the abnormal connections between organs due to injury and inflammation) following radiation. The patients receiving the treatment had sustained intestinal tissue damage following radiation treatments, and prior to the treatment all patients were experiencing pain, inflammation, fibrosis and hemorrhaging.
A genetically modified stem cell therapy for Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma (DLBCL) has been approved by the FDA. Researchers at the Abramson Cancer Center, in collaboration with Novartis, have successfully administered a CAR-T Cell therapy, called Kymriah, for the most common type of non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. DLBCL is a fast growing cancer that affects B lymphocytes, which are responsible for producing antibodies that help fight infections in the body. This groundbreaking treatment involves obtaining autologous (the patient’s own) T cells, which are a more specialized type of stem cell, and genetically engineering the cells to track down and destroy cancerous cells.
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.
Researchers at UCLA have developed a ‘bionic thymus’ capable of transforming blood stem cells into T cells of the immune system that can be targeted to attack cancer cells. During the transformation, the researchers were also able to incorporate a tumor-targeting gene in anticipation of utilizing the cells to fight cancers. T Cell production is a long and complex biological process in the body and many cancer patients may not have enough of their own T cells to collect and direct to combat their cancer. Therefore, the creation of an artificial thymus has the potential to resolve this issue. The process also shuts off the expression of normal T cell surface receptors, which the researchers believe may enable the cells to be used by other patients without the risk of rejection.