City of Hope research associate Mya Thu, M.Sc., received a travel award from the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) to attend its Centennial Conference: Translational Cancer Medicine in Singapore.
She will present research that focuses on how to measure the movement of neural stem cells to tumors using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
The award was co-sponsored by Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research.
Principal investigator Karen Aboody, M.D., assistant professor in the divisions of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation and Neurosciences, and Thu developed a method to track the migration of neural stem cells from injection to tumor. They compounded Feridex, an MRI contrast agent, with the stem cells and used MRI to watch the stem cells home to brain tumors in preclinical models.
Neural stem cells (NSCs) are a promising avenue of research in the development of new therapies for cancer because they show an affinity to congregate at the site of tumors regardless of route of administration. Aboody is developing a therapy using the inherent attraction of NSCs to cancer cells. Until recently, though, scientists had no accurate method to measure the progress of NSCbased experimental drugs in the body.
“One of our bigger challenges has been to actually track the migration and tumor tropism of the neural stem cells,” said Thu, who works in Aboody’s neurosciences laboratory. “We want to learn how many stem cells make it to the tumor, how quickly they travel to the site and how long they stay there.”
Thu adapted a similar method used to detect liver lesions and a magnetic-labeling technique pioneered by Joseph Frank, M.D., at the National Institutes of Health.
An integral part of the development process is taking accurate measurements of how the stem cells target the tumor sites in real time, so that the therapy could be made as safe and effective as possible.
“We have confirmed the viability of the traceable compounded neural stem cells, and have seen no significant alterations on the survival, migration or transgene expression of the cells,” Thu said. “The end product has proven to be safe and allows us the opportunity to develop potentially more effective anti-cancer therapies.”