Researchers at the University of North Carolina’s Chapel Hill pharmacy claim to have succeeded in transforming skin cells into cancer-hunting stem cells that have the ability not just to counter but destroy brain tumors known as glioblastoma.
The discovery is being seen as a major breakthrough in medical science, something that can offer a new and more effective treatment for cancer. In most cases, cancer treatment has strong side effects and patients face many health issues after treatment.
Researchers have reported their findings in a study published in the journal Nature Communications. Study lead author Shawn Hingtgen, Ph.D, an assistant professor in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy and member of the Lineberger Comprehensive Care Center, said patients desperately need a better standard of care.
“We wanted to find out if these induced neural stem cells would home in on cancer cells and whether they could be used to deliver a therapeutic agent. This is the first time this direct reprogramming technology has been used to treat cancer. Our work represents the newest evolution of the stem-cell technology that won the Nobel Prize in 2012”, Dr. Hingtgen said in a press release.
The traditional treatment for glioblastoma is surgery, but the disease is difficult to treat and hardly 30% of the patients who undergo surgery survive beyond two years. It is said that even if a surgeon removes most of the tumor, some part of the invasive and cancerous tendrils that have penetrated into various parts of the brain remain behind.
Hingtgen said their aim is to improve the statistics of survival by developing the new personalized treatment for glioblastoma that starts with a patient's own skin cells by focusing mainly on these cancerous tendrils and slowly getting rid of these.