According to a study published in Nature Communications, researchers have found a way to fight brain tumors called glioblastoma. To do so, they convert skin cells into cancer-fighting skin cells.
Glioblastoma is a type of tumor generally found in the cerebral hemisphere of the brain. However, it can be found anywhere in the brain or along the spinal cord. The difficulty with treating glioblastoma is its location. It's a very tricky procedure that requires doctors to surgically remove as much of the tumor as they can. While they can remove most of it, rarely do they extract all of it. Left behind are bits of tendrils which sprout from the original growth. These remnants usually cause the tumor to grow back. Patients typically have a 30 percent chance of living beyond two years.
Shawn Hingtgen, a member of the Linegberger Comprehensive Care Center who led the study, said this study is groundbreaking in that it provides doctors with yet another tool to fight the deadly condition. "Patients desperately need a better standard of care," said Hingtgen.
"Neural cells are able to move effortlessly through the brain to obliterate tendrils."
To convert these skin cells, Hingtgen and his team were able to modify skin cells called fibroblast into neural stem cells. Neural cells are able to move effortlessly through the brain to obliterate tendrils.
"Our work represents the newest evolution of the stem-cell technology that won the Nobel Prize in 2012," Hingtgen said in a press release. "We wanted to find out if these induced neural stem cells would home in on cancer cells and whether they could be used to deliver a therapeutic agent. This is the first time this direct reprogramming technology has been used to treat cancer."
While scientists have yet to test the procedure on humans—they've done so on mice and increased survival rates by 160 to 122 percent—human stem cell treatment is not far off.