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Virus Kills Brain Tumor Stem Cells in Mice

CancerWise - December 2007

Scientists have tailored a virus to target and destroy brain tumor stem cells that are unresponsive to other cancer therapies, according to a report in the Sept. 18 edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Significance of results

"We have shown, first in lab experiments using cell tissue, and then in stem cell-derived human brain cancer in mice, that we have a tool that can target and eliminate the cells that drive brain tumors," says co-senior author Juan Fueyo, M.D., an associate professor in M. D. Anderson's Department of Neuro-Oncology.

"While an animal model doesn't fully represent what might happen in humans, the tumors grown by these stem cells closely resemble the tumors we see in our patients, which is an exciting finding in itself."

Research methods

The scientists developed a virus called Delta-24-RGD, which spreads throughout the tumors and destroys cancer cells without affecting healthy cells.

Since 2004, doctors have known that brain tumors are driven by defective stem cells that duplicate, causing the tumor to grow.

The team extracted these defective stem cell lines, or groups, from four specimens with glioblastoma multiforme. This is one of the most dangerous forms of brain cancer that is unresponsive to many therapies. Delta-24-RGD treated and killed all four of the stem cell lines in cell tissue.

The researchers then put these stem cell samples into the brains of mice and treated some of the mice with Delta-24-RGD.

Primary results

The untreated mice lived for an average of 35.5 days, while the mice treated with Delta-24-RGD lived an average of 66 days.

Scientists also discovered that some of the mice survived the length of the experiment without any neurological side effects, which is rare but encouraging, Fueyo says.

"It's important in animal models to see improvement in survival in the majority of animals, but to have some be cured and survive a long time without neurological symptoms is very rare," Fueyo says.

What’s next?

The National Cancer Institute has manufactured a clinical quality version of Delta-24-RGD, and an independent consultant has completed a toxicology assessment.

An Investigational New Drug Application will be filed with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this month. The application is a mandatory step before a Phase I clinical trial can begin.

– Adapted by Asma Siddiqi from an M. D. Anderson news release

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