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UCLA researchers engineer blood stem cells to fight melanoma
Date:11/28/2011

Researchers from UCLA's cancer and stem cell centers have demonstrated for the first time that blood stem cells can be engineered to create cancer-killing T-cells that seek out and attack a human melanoma. The researchers believe this approach could be useful in 40 percent of Caucasians with this malignancy.

Done in mouse models, the study serves as first proof-of-principle that blood stem cells, which make every cell type found in blood, can be genetically altered in a living organism to create an army of melanoma-fighting T-cells, said Jerome Zack, study senior author and a scientist with UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA.

"We knew from previous studies that we could generate engineered T-cells, but would they work to fight cancer in a relevant model of human disease, such as melanoma," said Zack, a professor of medicine and microbiology, immunology, and molecular genetics in Life Sciences. "We found with this study that they do work in a human model to fight cancer, and it's a pretty exciting finding."

The study appears Nov. 28, 2011 in the early online edition of the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers used a T-cell receptor from a cancer patient cloned by other scientists that seeks out an antigen expressed by this type of melanoma. They then genetically engineered the human blood stem cells by importing genes for the T-cell receptor into the stem cell nucleus using a viral vehicle. The genes integrate with the cell DNA and are permanently incorporated into the blood stem cells, theoretically enabling them to produce melanoma-fighting cells indefinitely and when needed, said Dimitrios N. Vatakis, study first author and an assistant researcher in Zack's lab.

"The nice thing about this approach is a few engineered stem cells can turn into an army of T-cell
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Contact: Kim Irwin
kirwin@mednet.ucla.edu
310-206-2805
University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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