Stem cell research has been a source of hope for doctors and scientists alike, bringing the promise of new treatments for previously incurable diseases. Now, researchers believe that lung cancer stem cells may lead to a new immunotherapy treatment option for mesothelioma patients.
University of Cincinnati Cancer Center researchers state that tumors, like those found in patients with malignant mesothelioma, contain stem cells that encourage cancer growth. They believe that by learning more about how these cells interact with the body’s immune system, they may be able to develop a personalized immunotherapy approach to treating a number of diseases such as mesothelioma.
According to John C. Morris, MD, senior study author and University of Cincinnati College of Medicine professor, “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.”
Immunotherapy, as defined by the American Cancer Society, is a “treatment that uses certain parts of the immune system to fight diseases such as cancer.” In many cases, immunotherapy treatments stimulate a patient’s own immune system to attack disease cells.
Pleural mesothelioma is a rare and deadly form of cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos. It is highly aggressive and metastasizes quickly, making it a very difficult disease to treat.
The National Institutes for Health states that stem cells promise potential in the treatment of a number of diseases and conditions, and that stem cells could one day be used to grow new cells and tissues for medical therapies.
“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,” said Dr. Morris. “Stem cells are not frequently dividing, so they are much less sensitive to existing chemotherapies used to eliminate cells deemed abnormal.”