Friday, May 23, 2014

Stem Cells Loaded with Herpes Being Used to Kill Brain Tumors

This post was contributed by @MikeMadarasz of the Institute of International Research

In a breakthrough discovery, researchers at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute have found that stem cells loaded in the herpes virus can effectively kill cancerous cells in brain tumors.  The study showed a marked improvement in the survival rate of mice with Glioblastoma Multiforme, one of the most common forms of cancer, when treated with these virus-loaded stem cells. 

Similar approaches using cancer-killing viruses have been utilized before in phase 1 and 2 clinical trials on brain tumors, but have experienced minimal success.  The biggest hurdle?  Keeping the herpes virus at the tumor site long enough before leaving the brain through cerebrospinal fluid.  To combat this, the Harvard team looked to mesenchymal stem cells, a type of stem cell that according to Harvard, is popular in drug delivery vehicles for the minimal immune responses it triggers.  The virus was loaded into these stem cells and injected into Glioblastoma tumors developed in mice.

Using multiple imaging markers, the team was able to watch the virus make its way through first layer of brain tumor cells and ultimately into all of the cells. 

Said Khalid Shah, MS, PhD, lead author of the study, “We know that 70-75 percent of glioblastoma patients undergo surgery for tumor debulking, and we have previously shown that MSCs encapsulated in biocompatible gels can be used as therapeutic agents in a mouse model that mimics this debulking.”  He added, “So, we loaded MSCs with oncolytic herpes virus and encapsulated these cells in biocompatible gels and applied the gels directly onto the adjacent tissue after debulking. We then compared the efficacy of virus-loaded, encapsulated MSCs versus direct injection of the virus into the cavity of the debulked tumors.”

Shah’s team was able to observe that the gel kept the stem cells alive longer and allowed them kill any cells not removed during the debulking.  This ultimately resulted in a higher survival rate for the mice. 

You can find the Harvard report here.

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