October 24, 2014

More than 22,000 new cases of malignant brain tumors are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. Cancers of the brain are frequently very invasive and among the most difficult to treat; even with surgery and/or chemotherapy, malignant brain tumors are often times incurable. Researchers are hoping to change that though through the use of modified stem cell therapies in the treatment of aggressive forms of glioblastoma.

A clinical trial will soon begin at the Beckman Research Institute at the City of Hope Hospital in California utilizing adult stem cells in the treatment of these brain tumors1. The stem cells will deliver the medication in the chemotherapy treatments to the areas of the brain affected by the glioblastoma. This type of tumor is typically treated via surgery, however, there is no way to completely remove all the cancer cells during surgery. The result being that, reoccurrence of the tumor is seen quite often in patients. Chemotherapy is a current option for potentially killing the remaining cancer cells, but with chemotherapy treatment there are many undesirable and even harmful side effects.

This new stem cell treatment is seen as an improved way to deliver the chemotherapy drugs because only the affected cells are exposed to the treatment, as opposed to the entire body, when using conventional chemo methods.

By using stem cells, researchers have found a way to zone in on the diseased cells. Stem cells are “smart” and have the ability to seek out and heal damaged cells in the body, allowing researchers to have successfully experimented with treating the cancer with stem cells that have been injected with chemotherapeutic proteins and injecting the cells straight into the brain.

The 4-year-long clinical trials are being conducted in two phases and are set to begin at the end of this year.

The stem cells found in umbilical cord blood, even though they come from newborns, are considered to be adult stem cells. These cells found in your baby’s cord blood (which can only be harvested shortly following birth) are a very valuable resource in the treatment of more than 80 diseases and disorders, and that number is growing, as more research is conducted. Cord blood banking is a way families can guarantee that their children will always have a genetic match, should they ever need a (autologous) stem cell transplant in the future, possibly including the treatment discussed for brain tumors.

1. Stem Cell-mediated Therapy for High-grade Glioma: Toward Phase I-II Clinical Trials. Found online http://goo.gl/BUHHdI

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