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Could Skin Cells Be The Next Massive Cancer Breakthrough?

It’s now official; February has been one of the most promising months EVER in the field of cancer research, simply owing to the fact that two massive breakthroughs were reported.

While these findings are still in “preliminary” stages, it does offer significant hope and promise to those affected and their families.

So what is the newest breakthrough in the field of cancer research?

Using modified skin cells to treat a difficult to manage kind of brain cancer[i]

This particular type of cancer, known as a glioblastoma, is one of the most rapidly progressing cancers and the most deadly of all brain cancers, with very poor outcomes the norm.

Currently, only about 1 in 3 persons diagnosed with a glioblastoma live 2 years after identification. And, with over 12000 cases estimated to be diagnosed in the USA alone, the mortality rate is saddening.

Why Such A High Mortality Rate?

Primarily, because of the fact that they are difficult to remove. In fact, according to head of the study undertaken at the Eshelman School of Pharmacy at the University of North Carolina[ii], even when surgery is performed, it is normal for remnants known as tendrils to remain.

Tendrils can be thought of as small cancerous projections deeply embedded in brain tissue, that is not possible to remove, and which rapidly, and frequently develop into a full blown glioblastoma again.

Full Disclosure: Study Undertaken In Mice

Now before you discount the breakthrough made here, it is important to note that nearly all successful studies originate in lab rodents, after which subsequent trials are made on humans.

This particular study was able to increase the survival rates of mice with glioblastomas by up to 220%, a massive bolster that will translate to improved long term survival rates.

The particular cells modified were known as fibroblasts; collagen producing cells found in connective tissue. The fibroblasts were then reprogrammed to transform into neural stem cells, or immature brain cells.

These modified stem cells were able to travel unabated through the brain, subsequently finding embedded tendrils and destroying them.

Neural stem cells by themselves have innate cancer cell killing potential, but the researchers found that they could further modify the cells to produce a particular enzymatic protein named “TRAIL”, which infused the neural stem cells with an even greater cancer killing ability.

Special: Considerations And The Future

While the findings from this study are extremely promising, at this point in time it is still a laboratory study, and needs to be performed successfully on humans before being considered.

Also, chances are it will not be suitable for all individuals, as considerations such as the individual’s immune status, or stage of disease will have to be analyzed.

The researchers have explained that this discovery was based on a similar trial that converted skin cells into embryonic cells, which won a Nobel Prize for science in 2012.

At any rate, another study that just unveiled the use of lasers in breaching the blood brain barrier could offer help sooner for patients using chemotherapy, as many treatments are limited by their ability to actually enter the brain.

 

 

[i] http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2016/160202/ncomms10593/full/ncomms10593.html#results

[ii] http://uncnews.unc.edu/2016/02/24/unc-chapel-hill-researchers-make-groundbreaking-discovery-use-skin-cells-to-kill-cancer/

About Jason Bachmayer

This post was written by on Thursday, February 25, 2016. This author has written 9 posts on this blog and has 6631 total posts views.


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