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Study Shows Genetically Modified Cells Attack Tumors

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Neuroblastoma tumors have been treated in the lab with genetically modified cells that sought out and activated a chemotherapy drug placed directly at the cancer cells, according to investigators at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital  and their colleagues at City of Hope National Medical Center (Duarte, CA) and the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada).

Neuroblastoma is a solid tumor that arises in a part of the nervous system outside the brain.

The researchers showed that the cells migrated to tumors regardless of how small the tumors were or where they were located in the body.

The cells produced an enzyme that activated the chemotherapy drug CPT-11 (irinotecan) at the site of the tumors. A report on this work appears in the Dec. 20 issue of the journal PLoS ONE.

The study demonstrates that such cells, called neural stem progenitor cells, can be used to target solid tumors that have spread. The fact that the drug is already used to treat cancers should make it easier to translate these laboratory findings to the clinic, the researchers noted.

Authors include Rebecca A. Bush, Doris A. Phelps, Joanna S. Remack, Karina Jin Yoon, Philip M. Potter and Mary K. Danks (St. Jude); Karen S. Aboody, Elizabeth Garcia, Marianne Z. Metz, Joseph Najbauer, Kristin A. Justus, Shanna Gillespie and Carlotta A. Glackin (City of Hope) and Seung U. Kim (University of British Columbia).

This work was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute, Stop Cancer Foundation, Phi Beta Psi Sorority, Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, Neidorf Family Foundation, Marcus Foundation and ALSAC.