January 23, 2009

Treating Children’s Brain Cancer

Using an engineered herpes virus targeting tumor stem cells, researchers successfully blocked a brain tumor from forming in mice. This discovery may help doctors better understand the recurrent and treatment-resistant nature of these tumors, and potentially find better treatments.

Neuroblastoma is the most common extracranial cancer in childhood and the most common cancer in infancy. The disease can go into remission by chemotherapy, radiation or surgery, but it's also known for treatment resistance and a high rate of relapse and death. High-risk cases show less than 50 percent long-term survival rates.

Researchers grew tumorogenic cells -- cells that have the potential to form tumors "“ from neoroblastoma cells. Using a herpes virus modified to be toxic to tumor cells, researchers injected the tumorgenic cells and found they did not form tumors over a 60-day observation period.

"The main finding of our study is that pediatric neuroblastomas seem to have a population of cells with stem-cell characteristics that we may need to target for therapy," Timothy Cripe, M.D., Ph.D., senior investigator and a physician/researcher in the division of Hematology/Oncology at Cincinnati Children's, was quoted as saying. "We also show that one promising approach for targeted treatment is biological therapy, such as an engineered oncolytic virus that seeks out and kills progenitor cells that could be the seeds of cancers."



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