Study Says Stem Cells May Slow or Prevent Cancer Development
For victims of mesothelioma, the prognosis has never been very positive. Individuals with mesothelioma cancer often succumb to their illness within a year of diagnosis, and even those diagnosed in the disease’s earliest stages – which is rare – don’t often make it to that magic 5-year mark.
So, when researchers at Stanford University recently suggested that a certain kind of stem cell might eventually be able to slow or even prevent cancer, the world of thoracic oncologists certainly sat up and listened.
They understand that mesothelioma patients need a “Hail Mary”, and it could be that this finding might eventually be that break they deserve.
Specifically, the Stanford researchers are working with Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPS cells), which they claim are the keystone of regenerative medicine.
“Outside the body, they can be coaxed to become many different types of cells and tissues that can help repair damage due to trauma or disease,” the study authors recently wrote in a press release.
Now, they are working with mice to determine whether iPS cells can train the immune system to attack tumors or possibly even prevent them.
The results thus far lead to the conclusion that it may eventually be possible to vaccinate an individual with his or her own iPS cells in order to protect them against the development of a number of different kinds of cancers.
It’s a scenario that’s spreading lots of hope through the cancer treatment community.
The testing with the mice involved injecting them with irradiated iPS cells and a mouse breast cancer cell line into the animals.
All the mice developed tumors but what happened after that was quite promising.
To simplify, 7 of 10 mice injected with the iPS cells along with an immune-stimulating adjuvant showed significant tumor reduction.
In two of those mice, the breast cancer cells were completed rejected.
Oncologists that specialize in asbestos-caused cancer were also delighted to read that similar results were obtained when researchers transplanted both a mouse melanoma and mesothelioma cell line into mice.
“This approach is particularly powerful because it allows us to expose the immune system to many different cancer-specific epitopes simultaneously,” said lead author Nigel Kooreman. “Once activated, the immune system is on alert to target cancers as they develop throughout the body.”
“We’ve learned that iPS cells are very similar on their surface to tumor cells,” said Joseph Wu, MD, PhD, the director of Stanford’s Cardiovascular Institute and a professor of cardiovascular medicine and radiology. “When we immunized an animal with genetically matching iPS cells, the immune system could be primed to reject the development of tumors in the future. Pending replication in humans, our findings indicate these cells may one day serve as a true patient-specific cancer vaccine.”
“Although much research remains to be done, the concept itself is pretty simple,” Wu added. “We would take your blood, make iPS cells and then inject the cells to prevent future cancers. I’m very excited about the future possibilities.”