Scientists have successfully engineered a cell that moves through the brain to hunt down cancer cells and destroy them before they themselves vanish without a trace. They have performed the study using mice to observe what will happen with its brain tumour when incorporated with reprogrammed skin cells. They created personalized tumour-homing cells gathered from adult skin cells that were able to shrink brain tumours from 2% up to 5% of the original size.
Even though the strategy has not yet been fully tested on humans, this can be a good way for doctors to develop a new treatment to heal aggressive cancers like glioblastoma, a type of cancer that kills the majority of human patients in 12 to 15 months. The production of tumour-homing cells for mice only took 4 days.
Glioblastoma spread tendrils and roots of cancerous cells through the brain. This makes it impossible to remove even surgically! Glioblastoma, like other cancers, also oozes chemical signals that stem cells – cells that are specialized and can make multiple cell types in the body.
Scientists are looking at the part of stem cells that can detect tumours and travel to the area to help fix the damage. Just like with what happens with our regular wounds such as cuts, scrapes, and burns.
Shawn Hingtgen, stem cell biologist at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, together with his colleague, reported at Science Translational Medicine that the treatment of skin cells with a biochemical cocktail to promote neural stem cell characteristics seemed to be the trick because this turned it into a one-step process.
After knowing the effect of this study, the next query is whether these cells can home in on tumours in lab dishes and in animals, same with the neural stem cells. Hingtgen said, “We are really holding our breath. The day we saw the cells crawling across the dish toward the tumours, we knew we had something special.”