Neuroscientist Dr. Karen Aboody, M.D. and Oncologist Dr. Jana Portnow, M.D. from City of Hope Hospital are set to begin a phase 1 clinical trial for a method of delivering chemotherapy treatments to glioblastoma [aggressive brain tumors] with modified neural stem cells. The scientists plan to capitalize on the stem cells’ innate ability to seek out invasive tumors by loading the cells with a chemotherapeutic protein and then injecting them into the brain.
As reported on the front page of the New York Times Science section, clinical applications of stem cell based therapies are accelerating at a rate that will revolutionize the medical field in a matter of years. In the United States alone, there are currently over 4000 therapies in clinical trials for the treatment of heart disease, blindness, spinal cord injuries, diabetes, H.I.V., and other diseases, injuries, and traumas.
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In a study conducted by the Harvard Stem Cell Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital, a research team led by Dr. Khalid Shah, MS, PhD, utilized Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) to facilitate the delivery of a tumor-killing virus into an animal model afflicted with brain cancer. The virus was loaded onto the MSCs and encapsulated into a biocompatible gel that, when injected into the models, resulted in a higher viral efficacy and increased survival rate.
Maciej S. Lesniak and Yu Cheng, researchers at University of Chicago’s Brain Tumor Center, are using Neural Stem Cells [NSCs] to target brain tumors. The neural stem cells, which have a built-in homing mechanism to “sniff out” tumors, are being used to deliver cancer drugs to combat the tumors. The use of NSCs to treat brain tumors represents a novel use of stem cells and is indicative of researcher’s increasing application of stem cells to develop treatments for previously intractable health issues. The treatment takes advantage of stem cells role as the body’s natural repair and maintenance mechanism.