Another cancer breakthrough: scientists have developed a new method of stem cells that will target and kill cancer. Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute have tested this method on mice, and they have published their initial findings in the journal Stem Cells. The new stem cells will secrete a toxin that effectively kills cancer cells. They were also able to remove brain cells from mice without any damage to the healthy cells.
Lead author Khalid Shah described his research saying,
Cancer-killing toxins have been used with great success in a variety of blood cancers, but they don’t work as well in solid tumors because the cancers aren’t as accessible and the toxins have a short half-life. Now we have toxin-resistant stem cells that can make and release cancer-killing drugs.
In short, doctors would ideally be able to target cancer cells rather than radiation, which doesn’t discriminate. They would leave healthy cells unharmed, allowing them to come back and replace cancer cells or fight them off more effectively.
The researchers started with mice with brain cancer, surgically removing their tumors. They then extracted the genetically engineered stem cells and put them in place of the old tumor in a gel. Their biggest concern at that time was that the gel might kill healthy brain cells as well, and they were successful in getting around this issue.
Next, Shah plans to target other types of cancer, and of course to test his theories and treatments on human subjects. He believes that we can now cure brain cancer, but there will be plenty of work ahead to perfect and apply this to other types of cancer. It’s still amazing news.
Chris Mason, professor of regenerative medicine at University College London said,
This is a clever study, which signals the beginning of the next wave of therapies. Cells can do so much. This is the way the future is going to be.