Stem Cell Treatment for Brain Tumour
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05 August 2010
By Risha Chitlangia
New Delhi, India
Harvard Medical School, In Association With Indian Hosp, Will Conduct Human Trials
A majority of brain tumour patients don’t survive more than a year despite timely treatment. Doctors say the existing line of treatment–surgery followed by chemo or radiotherapy–is not successful in eliminating the tumour.
Doctors at the Harvard Medical School are experimenting with genetically engineered stem cells to “completely cure” brain tumour. After successfully using the stem cell in animal model, doctors at Harvard are now starting human trials, for which they are planning to rope in Max Healthcare.
“We take the bone marrow stem cells from the patient and then genetically engineer it with drugs. These cells then release therapeutic proteins to kill the tumour,” said Dr Khalid Shah, who head the research at Harvard Medical School, while addressing neurologists at Max Healthcare.
Dr Khalid, who has been working on genetically engineered stem cells for the past seven years, says the stem cells are treated with different molecules depending upon the type of tumour. The treated cells can destroy the tumour in three ways: Stop the proliferation of cancerous cells, kill the defective cells and stop the blood supply to the tumour.
“We first get the biopsy of the tumour done and depending on the molecular profiling of the tumour, we decide the molecule with which it needs to be engineered. It often takes 20–25 days to engineer the stem cells,” said Dr Khalid.
Neurologists in India say the prognosis of brain tumour patients is very poor and they often succumb to the disease within a year of treatment. “If we can increase their life expectancy by two–four years and improve their quality of life, it is a big achievement,” said Dr Shakir Hussain, head of the department, Neurology, Max Healthcare.
With encouraging results in the animal studies, Dr Khalid plans to start human trials. Talking about the side–effects of stem cells, Dr Khalid said, “In brain tumour patients, our first aim is to increase their life expectancy. We are not bothered about the side–effects at this stage.” If everything goes as per plan, Max Healthcare will soon be a part of the human trial for the genetically engineered stem cells.
“We would like to be part of this trial as we have the necessary infrastructure,” said Dr Hussain.