Stem cell finding could advance immunotherapy for lung cancer

A University of Cincinnati (UC) Cancer Institute lung cancer research team reports that lung cancer stem cells can be isolated—and then grown—in a preclinical model, offering a new avenue for investigating immunotherapy treatment options that specifically target stem cells.

John C. Morris, MD, and his colleagues report their findings in the Nov. 13, 2012, issue of , a peer-reviewed online publication that features original research from all disciplines within science and medicine.

are unique cells that can divide and differentiate into specialized cells types—for example cardiac muscle or . These cells also have the ability to self-renew and produce more stem cells.

"Increasing evidence supports the idea that have a population of stem cells, also called cancer-initiating cells, that continually regenerate and fuel ," explains Morris, senior author of the study and professor at the UC College of Medicine. "These cancer stem cells may also have the highest potential to spread to other organs."

Current models used to study cancer stem cells provide limited information on the interaction between cancer stem cells with the immune system, making the study of new therapies that utilize the body's immune system to fight off cancer virtually impossible.

In this study, the UC team set out to find a viable, consistent way to isolate lung cancer stem cells that could be used in a mouse model with full . The team was able to achieve this using a functional laboratory test known as "tumorsphere" assay.

The test—which shows how cells grow in culture—allowed them to enrich for cancer stem cells.

"Studying these unique cells could greatly improve our understanding of lung cancer's origins and lead to the novel therapeutics targeting these cells and help to more effectively eradicate this disease," adds Morris. "Immunotherapy is the future of . We are hopeful that this new method will accelerate our investigation of immunotherapies to specifically target cancer stem cells."

The team is working to characterize how cancer stem cells escape the body's immune system in order to develop more effective therapies that target stem cells.

"One of the hypotheses behind why cancer therapies fail is that the drug only kills cells deemed to be 'bad' (because of certain molecular characteristics), but leaves behind stem cells to repopulate the tumor," adds Morris. "Stem cells are not frequently dividing, so they are much less sensitive to existing chemotherapies used to eliminate cells deemed abnormal."

Related Stories

Scientists isolate cancer stem cells

Sep 11, 2008

After years of working toward this goal, scientists at the OU Cancer Institute have found a way to isolate cancer stem cells in tumors so they can target the cells and kill them, keeping cancer from returning.

Stem cells, potential source of cancer-fighting T cells

Sep 20, 2011

Adult stem cells from mice converted to antigen-specific T cells -- the immune cells that fight cancer tumor cells -- show promise in cancer immunotherapy and may lead to a simpler, more efficient way to use the body's immune ...

Recommended for you

Immune checkpoint inhibitors may work in brain cancers

Nov 21, 2014

New evidence that immune checkpoint inhibitors may work in glioblastoma and brain metastases was presented today by Dr Anna Sophie Berghoff at the ESMO Symposium on Immuno-Oncology 2014 in Geneva, Switzerland.

New model of follow up for breast cancer patients

Nov 21, 2014

Public health researchers from the University of Adelaide have evaluated international breast cancer guidelines, finding that there is potential to improve surveillance of breast cancer survivors from both a patient and health ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.