The brain cancer known as glioma is extremely difficult to cure with current therapies. Now, a City of Hope neuroscientist is assembling a team that aims to
turn the tide on this deadly disease with the help of stem cells.
Michael Barish, Ph.D., chair of the Division of Neurosciences, recently received a California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) Disease Team Planning grant.
This CIRM program supports the formation of multidisciplinary teams focusing on a therapy or diagnostic tool for a particular disease or serious injury. The grants help researchers assemble teams and prepare major grant proposals needed to fund translational research efforts that will move promising therapies into clinical trials.
|Michael Barish (Photo by p.cunningham)|
The City of Hope team’s focus is a potential glioma therapy that uses neural stem cells to deliver cancer-killing drugs to invasive tumor cells, those cancer cells that migrate away from the main tumor and invade surrounding healthy brain tissue. Invasive cancer cells can hide from current therapies and later cause recurrence of the disease, making glioma one of the most difficult cancers to eliminate.
City of Hope researchers, led by Karen Aboody, M.D., have been working for more than seven years to create therapies using neural stem cells. Neural stem cells form neurons and other nervous system cells as an organism develops.
Using technologies developed at the institution, City of Hope’s team will design and evaluate several potential therapies using genetically altered neural stem cells that will track and kill invasive glioma cells.
Aboody, assistant professor in the divisions of Neurosciences and Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, is co-principal investigator on the CIRM grant with Barish, along with Larry Couture, Ph.D., senior vice president of the Sylvia R. and Isador A. Deutch Center for Applied Technology Development.
Researchers believe a stem-cell-based therapy not only would be more effective than current treatments, but also would bring fewer side effects. “Therapies to eliminate invasive brain tumor cells while sparing normal brain tissue are urgently needed,” said Barish.
The team’s unique approach will help move the proposed therapy quickly to clinical trials. “Our team will be completely vertically integrated,” he said. “We can move from Karen’s original work completely through to an IND [investigational new drug].” Submitting an IND application to the Food and Drug Administration is one of the last steps before a new therapy goes into testing through clinical trials.
The $55,000 grant was one of 22 grants awarded in June by CIRM — totaling $1.1 million in all — to support multidisciplinary teams of scientists in pursuit of therapies for specific diseases.
CIRM was established in early 2005 following the passage of Proposition 71, the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative. The statewide ballot measure provided $3 billion in funding for stem cell research at California universities and research institutions and called for the establishment of a new state agency to make grants and provide loans for stem cell research, research facilities and other vital research opportunities.