A team of researchers from the University of North Carolina have been exploring an experimental method of delivering drugs to medulloblastoma that involves converting skin cells into stem cells that may be able to target tumours. For more detailed information, you can read the source article here, at UNC’s website, or click here to view the original research article in PLOS ONE.
Medulloblastoma is a form of brain cancer that typically occurs in an area of the brain called the cerebellum. According to the NHS, medulloblastoma is the most common cause of brain cancer in children, and accounts for an estimated 20% of all cases. Medulloblastoma most commonly affects children between the ages of three and eight, and it is slightly more common in boys than girls. Adults can also be affected by medulloblastoma, although this is rare.
The Need For New Treatments
Although recent developments have improved the prognoses of patients with medulloblastoma, new methods and more targeted approaches to treating this cancer are urgently needed. Medulloblastoma often affects children, and Dr Hingten, who worked on the study, says that chemotherapy and radiation may be particularly toxic to a developing brain. This means, he says, that research into new treatment options that could reduce the level of these drugs may benefit patients’ quality of life.
The researchers at UNC used models to explore a new method of delivering drugs to the medulloblastoma. Using previous research, which had shown that it was possible to convert skin cells into stem cells, they used stem cells developed from skin cells to target the medulloblastoma and deliver a drug to shrink the tumour. Dr Hingten compares the modified cells to a “FedEx truck” that works to deliver drugs directly to the cancer cells.
For the research, the scientists developed a model of medulloblastoma that could be studied in the lab. They used this to mimic the surgery and drug treatments frequently used for medulloblastoma at the moment. The researcher team found that, after surgery, using the skin cells altered to be stem cells as a treatment in the mouse models could decrease tumour size by 15 times, and extend median survival by 133%. Human stem cells could prolong life by 123%. Although this research is still at a very early stage, these results are promising.
For more information about this study, you can view the original news article at UNC here, or the published study here.