In a breakthrough, a team of Harvard scientists led by an Indian-American researcher has discovered a novel way to fight deadly brain cancer with toxin-resistant stem cells.
Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital led by Dr Khalid Shah, who hails from Kashmir, experimented on mice and used genetically engineered stem cells that released cancer-killing toxins while leaving healthy cells unaffected.
The modified cells, most importantly, were able to release the tumour killing poison without succumbing to its effects.
“A few years ago, we recognised that stem cells could be used to continuously deliver these therapeutic toxins to tumours in the brain, but first we needed to genetically engineer stem cells that could resist being killed themselves by the toxins,” Shah an HSCI Principal Faculty member said.
“Now, we have toxin-resistant stem cells that can make and release cancer-killing drugs,” he said.
During the tests, the main brain tumour was surgically removed before the stem cells were placed at the site of the tumour in a biodegradable gel to eradicate the remaining cancerous cells.
“Cancer-killing toxins have been used with great success in a variety of blood cancers, but they don’t work as well in solid tumours because the cancers aren’t as accessible,” added Shah.
The work, considered a breakthrough in cancer treatment by experts, has been published in the Stem Cells journal.