Researchers from the University of California, Irvine have created a new stem cell therapy that can selectively identify and kill cancerous tissue.  This new therapy will allow doctors to target the disease in a localised way and avoid the severe side effects associated with chemotherapy.

One of the project leaders who created this innovative stem cell therapy was Dr. Weian Zhao, associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of California.  Dr. Zhao and his colleagues programmed human bone marrow cells to locate cancerous tissue within the human body.  After the stem cells have found the cancer cells, they work in conjunction with a chemotherapy drug to kill them.

Details of this new stem cell therapy were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.  The researchers found that the treatment was safe and effective during animal trials.  They tested it on mice who had breast cancer and found that the stem cells locked the cancerous cells up before they could spread to the lungs.

The modified stem cells kill cancer cells by secreting an enzyme called cytosine deaminase.  This enzyme activates an inactive chemotherapy treatment that the subject has been given.  Because the enzyme is only present around the site of a tumour, the chemotherapy drug is only activated where the cancer cells are is present in the body.

Dr. Zhao said that the research team was particularly interested in stopping metastatic cancers from spreading to other parts of the body.  That’s because metastatic tumours are responsible for more than 90% of cancer deaths.

Zhao and his colleagues are incredibly excited by their new stem cell therapy, he said: “This is a new paradigm for cancer therapy, We are going in a direction that few have explored before, and we hope to offer an alternative and potentially more effective cancer treatment.”

If further trials of the therapy are successful, it could mean cancer patients no longer have to experience severe side effects from chemotherapy treatment.  Having a more targeted form of chemotherapy also means fewer healthy cells die from the treatment.

Source: Stem cell therapy attacks cancer by targeting unique tissue stiffness