Stem Cells Show Promise As Drug Delivery Tool for Childhood Brain Cancer

The latest in a series of laboratory breakthroughs could lead to a more effective way to treat the most common brain cancer in children. Scientists from the University of North Carolina (UNC) Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy reported results from early studies that demonstrate how cancer-hunting stem cells, developed from skin cells, can track down and deliver a drug to destroy medulloblastoma cells hiding after surgery. Previously, UNC Lineberger’s Shawn Hingtgen, PhD, and his collaborators showed in preclinical studies that they could flip skin cells into stem cells that hunt and deliver cancer-killing drugs to glioblastoma, the deadliest malignant brain tumor in adults. In their new study, published online on July 10, 2018 in PLOS ONE, the researchers reported they could shrink tumors in laboratory models of medulloblastoma, and extend life. The study is a necessary step toward developing clinical trials that would see if the approach works for children. The open-access article is titled “Intra-Cavity Stem Cell Therapy Inhibits Tumor Progression in a Novel Murine Model of Medulloblastoma Surgical Resection.” Dr. Hingtgen said that this approach holds promise for reducing side effects an¬¬¬d helping more children with medulloblastoma. More than 70 percent of patients with average-risk disease live five years on standard treatment, but not all patients respond, and treatment can cause lasting neurologic and developmental side effects. “Children with medulloblastoma receive chemotherapy and radiation, which can be very toxic to the developing brain,” said Dr. Hingtgen, who is an Associate Professor in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, an Assistant Professor in the UNC School of Medicine Department of Neurosurgery, and a member of UNC LIneberger.
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