Editors' ChoiceBioengineering

Spy vs. Spy: Recruiting Stem Cells to the War on Cancer

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Science Translational Medicine  01 Sep 2010:
Vol. 2, Issue 47, pp. 47ec137
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3001625

Cancer, like any well-trained spy, secretly sabotages your health and recruits innocent mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) from the body to further tumor growth and spread. When detected by snooping doctors, tumors can be surgically removed and/or attacked with drugs or radiation. However, tumors in the brain are challenging to treat because the delicate nature of the organ may preclude surgery and the blood-brain barrier may render systemically administered drugs ineffective. To combat cancers in the brain, Roger et al. developed a counter-spy strategy: Create undercover MSCs that are secretly loaded with drug-carrying nanoparticles (NPs). These MSCs are then planted in the tumor vicinity and will home in and deliver chemotherapy agents directly to the unsuspecting tumors that try to recruit them.

To test the feasibility of their plan, Roger et al. first cultured human MSCs in the laboratory with NPs and confirmed the uptake of NPs by the cells with no toxic side effects. These modified MSCs were then injected into the vicinity of brain tumors in mice. Seven days after injection, the NP-carrying MSCs were found localized to the brain tumor area, with none of the cells found in normal brain tissue, thus demonstrating the feasibility of the authors’ strategy. With continued research, these NP-carrying MSCs, loaded with anticancer drugs such as paclitaxel or ferrocifen, may be eventually become a new Special Forces treatment in the fight against cancer.

M. Roger et al., Mesenchymal stem cells as cellular vehicles for delivery of nanoparticles to brain tumors. Biomaterials, 3 August 2010 (10.1016/j.biomaterials.2010.07.048). [Abstract]

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