A new National Health Service (NHS) trial has been established to investigate the viability of lung cancer stem cell therapy as a replacement for chemotherapy.
The news comes after doctors at University College London (UCL) proved that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), which are found in umbilical cord tissue, have the ability to target cancerous cells in the body.
The Study by UCL researchers showed that MSCs have the unique ability of “homing” to cancer cells when transplanted into the body.
The findings suggest that doctors could use mesenchymal stem cells as a “Trojan Horse” therapy by carrying anti-cancer compounds straight to the site of malignant tumors. In the NHS trial, scientists hope that MSCs will therefore be able to deliver a specific immune molecule called TRAIL to the site of malignant growths.
Inspired by UCL’s study, the NHS trial will see 46 patients with lung cancer receive stem cell transplants after three weeks of standard chemotherapy. In order for officials to approve the treatment, scientists will need to find a way to modify and culture MSCs to safely deliver TRAIL in sufficient doses, without losing the cell’s key characteristics.
Crucially though, stem cell transplants are still only supplementary to chemotherapy. The new MSCTRAIL trial could change this by making stem cells the primary option.