Possible New Treatment Strategy for Deadly Brain Tumors

Despite advances in neurosurgery and radiation techniques, the prognosis for patients with intracranial glioma remains devastating. Now, researchers have identified a possible new treatment strategy for this common type of malignant brain tumor. Two studies funded in part by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) show that, in a mouse model, neural stem cells (NSCs) can be used to deliver therapeutic agents capable of killing glioma cells and their migrating tumor cells.

Stem cells used to track and destroy brain tumor cells

Researchers in Los Angeles have combined a special protein that targets cancer cells with neural stem cells to track and attack malignant brain tumor cells. Glioblastoma multiforme, or gliomas, are a particularly deadly type of brain tumor. They are highly invasive with poorly defined borders that intermingle with healthy brain tissue, making them nearly impossible to remove surgically without catastrophic consequences. Furthermore, cells separate from the main tumor and migrate to form satellites that escape treatment and often lead to recurrence.

Neural stem cells used to hunt, kill brain cancer

Using neural stem cells to hunt down and kill cancer cells, researchers have successfully tested a new treatment for brain cancer. They now hope the technique will lead to an effective treatment for glioma, the most aggressive form of primary brain tumor in humans. As the Cedars-Sianai researchers note, the prognosis has historically been extremely poor for patients diagnosed with malignant gliomas. The tumors have poorly defined margins, and glioma cells often spread deep into healthy brain tissue making their surgical removal difficult. Often, pockets of tumor cells break off from the main tumor and migrate deep into non-tumorous areas of the brain. Therefore, even if the original tumor is completely removed or destroyed, the risk of recurrence is high as cells in these distant “satellites” multiply and eventually re-form a new brain tumor. Due to these characteristics, treating brain cancer has been extremely difficult.