Genetically engineered adult stem cells, armed with a cancer-killing protein, have proven successful at targeting several types of tumours while sparing healthy cells, new research has found.
Stem cells carrying TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (Trail) destroyed lung, squamous, breast and cervical cancer cells in laboratory cultures, according to British researchers.
When tried on mice, the specialised cells shrunk subcutaneous breast tumours by about 80%, and when injected intravenously, they helped destroy about 38% of metastasized lung tumours in rodents.
The study results combined findings from two previous areas of research: one that found that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), which come from bone marrow, can work as messengers to tumour cells, and another that found Trail effective at killing cancer while sparing healthy cells.
Two years before human trials
"This is the first study to demonstrate a significant reduction in tumour burden with inducible Trail-expressing MSCs in a well-controlled and specifically directed therapy," the authors, Dr Michael Loebinger and Dr Sam M. Janes of the Centre for Respiratory Research at the University College London, noted in a news release from the American Thoracic Society.
Despite the success, the authors said it could be at least two years before these specialised stem cells are tried on people. Loebinger noted, for example, that while the MSCs seem to be naturally drawn to the cancer cells, the reasons for this are not fully understood. – (HealthDay News, May 2009)
Stem cell cure causes tumours
Landmark stem cell study cleared