Researchers find new way to kill cancer stem cells

For the scientific community, looking for ways to combat cancer continues to be a challenge, albeit one that has experienced a number of breakthroughs in recent years and even months.

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Researchers in Penn State recently found that grape-based compounds can kill colon cancer stem cells, after conducting petri-dish trials and trials on mine. In Salford, Manchester, researchers found that a combination of vitamin C and antibiotics can knock out cancer stem cells. Now just last week, researchers in Canada’s McMaster University have identified a unique feature of cancer stem cells, which could potentially play a vital role in the development of more targeted cancer treatments.

How existing drugs can kill deadly cancer stem cells

In a study published in Cell Chemical Biology, research reveals that an existing series of drugs has proved effective in killing off cancer stem cells.

It is thought that these stem cells play in part in the recurrence of cancer following treatment, and so using these drugs may be able to help patients stay cancer free. These drugs are thought to be able to attack these cancer cells thanks to the presence of a protein called Sam68. According to Mick Bhatia, the study’s principal investigator and scientific director of the McMaster Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute, the findings are helping the team uncover how stem cells function in cancerous human tumours. “The drugs helped us to understand the biology,” he writes. “We’ve worked backwards, employing a series of drugs used in the clinic to understand a new way that cancer stem cells can be killed.”

It is the hope of Bhatia that this breakthrough will enable those being treated for cancer to receive more targeted, relevant therapy. While patients undergoing treatment for breast cancer currently receive targeted treatments depending on the type of disease, therapies for cancers for example do not. “In the case of breast cancer, other researchers have found new ways to make existing drugs more effective by only giving them to people who were likely to benefit based on their specific traits and using drugs that target these traits,” said Bhatia.

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Stem cells help recovery from prostate surgery

It is relatively common for men recovering from prostate surgery to experience erectile dysfunction during recovery. Research shows that up to 80% of men have difficulty having sex in the months following the operation.

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A clinical trial is pointing to the possibility of stem cells being used to help treat erectile dysfunction in these cases.

In the first-phase of clinical trials, eight out of 15 men who were unable to have an erection after their prostate surgery, had sex six months after one-time treatment of stem cells.

The procedure involves removing fat cells from a patient’s abdomen via liposuction. After a specialised treatment, these are transformed into all-purpose stem cells.

The stem cells are then injected into the penis, where they begin to change in to nerve and muscle cells, as well as the endothelial cells that line blood vessels.

The 12 month follow up showed that the success of the treatment was ongoing.

 “As far as we know, this is the first time that a human study with a 12-month follow up shows that the treatment is lasting and safe,” said Lars Lund, a professor at Odense University hospital in Denmark.

 “That is much better than taking a pill every time you want to have intercourse,” he said.

The study has been so successful, that the next stage, a double- blind randomised trial has been approved. This study will include a placebo group

Only men recovering from prostate cancer and able to control their bladders will be enrolled in the new experiments, Lund explained.