The fat-derived stem cells being used in the study are obtained from breast cancer patients.
"We need to demonstrate that fat-derived stem cells taken from a breast cancer patient behave no differently than those from other women. Moreover, our studies will seek to understand what effect, if any, these stem cells may have on cancer cells. A major question is whether they will in some way promote the growth of cancer cells. We certainly hope this proves not to be the case," Dr. Rubin cautioned.
In 2001, researchers from the University of California Los Angeles and the University of Pittsburgh first reported that adult stem cells could be isolated from adipose tissue, more commonly known as fat. Since then, laboratory studies have suggested adipose-derived stem cells have potential for treating heart attack, stroke or bone injury, although there have been no clinical trials in the U.S. to date. Experts estimate that one pound of whole fat removed in a tummy tuck, for example, can yield up to 200 million stem cells, which in culture can be expanded by 10 times over the course of two weeks. If and when fat-derived stem cells are tried in patients for breast reconstruction, Dr. Rubin predicts surgeons will obtain the cells from the patients' own stores of abdominal fat.
According to the American Cancer Society, more than 214,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed by the end of 2006. For women who require mastectomy, the loss of one or both breasts can cause significant discomfort and psychosocial distress. More than 80,000 breast reconstruction operations are performed each year, according to American Society of Plastic Surgeons statistics.
Source:University of Pittsburgh Medical Center