Physicians may be able use stem cell-based drugs to find and treat metastatic tumors.
A patient’s own immune system could receive a booster shot to overcome treatment-resistant cancer cells.
Paying attention to molecular changes may improve how childhood cancer survivors fare over the rest of their lives.
These possibilities and many more from the world of cancer research were shared by
City of Hope scientists at the recent American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting in Los Angeles on April 14 to 18. Presentations covered a wide range of themes, including these topics:
Neural stem cells
Recent studies have shown that neural stem cells can specifically target cancer cells and travel to tumor sites. Donghong Zhao, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher in City of Hope’s Division of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, and her colleagues examined the activity of neural stem cells within different phenotypes of breast cancer. She found that three to four times as many of these stem cells migrated to highly invasive breast cancer cells compared to less aggressive cancer cells.
“These results suggest that neural stem cells can be used for the targeted delivery of anticancer therapies to highly invasive breast cancer cells,” said Zhao. “Rather than delivering chemotherapy systemically, we can package it with neural stem cells to be used directly at the tumor site, which spares the surrounding healthy cells.”
The body’s immune system is a potent weapon against disease, even cancer. Researchers have identified a candidate to spur immune response called toll-like receptor 9 (TLR9). But investigational TLR9-based cancer immunotherapies have failed to completely destroy tumors. Now Marcin Kortylewski, Ph.D., assistant research scientist in the Division of Cancer Immunotherapeutics & Tumor Immunology, and colleagues have shown that Stat3, a protein associated with the growth and development of various cancers, was suppressing the TLR9-based treatment.
“When we removed Stat3 expression for immune cells in our models, the TLR9-based immunotherapeutic rapidly eradicated the melanoma tumor we were testing against,” said Kortylewski. “Our findings demonstrate that we can target Stat3 to change the immune suppressing microenvironment created by the cancer and drastically improve immunotherapy response.”
The science of survival
More than 10 million cancer survivors live in the United States, and about 227,000 of them have survived childhood cancer, forming a growing population with special health-care needs. Childhood cancer survivors face developmental issues associated with their cancer treatment, as well as increased risk of a second cancer and other health problems later in life.
Smita Bhatia, M.D., M.P.H., chair of the Division of Population Sciences and director of the Center for Cancer Survivorship, and colleagues helped develop the national guidelines for follow-up care of childhood cancer survivors. At the annual meeting, she discussed data on long-term complications in childhood cancer survivors, as well as new research pursuing the molecular underpinnings and genetic susceptibility associated with development of these complications.
“The overall goal is to identify individuals at high risk for the development of long-term complications, so that measures can be taken to decrease the morbidity and mortality associated with their development,” said Bhatia.
Founded in 1907 and now comprising about 24,000 members, AACR is the oldest and largest scientific organization in the world focused on every aspect of high-quality, innovative cancer research. For more information on the organization, visit www.aacr.org.