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Experimental anti-cancer drug made from corn lillies kills brain tumor stem cells
Date:8/30/2007

A drug that shuts down a critical cell-signaling pathway in the most common and aggressive type of adult brain cancer successfully kills cancer stem cells thought to fuel tumor growth and help cancers evade drug and radiation therapy, a Johns Hopkins study shows.

In a series of laboratory and animal experiments, Johns Hopkins scientists blocked the signaling system, known as Hedgehog, with an experimental compound called cyclopamine to explore the blockades effect on cancer stem cells that populate glioblastoma multiforme. Cyclopamine has long been known to inhibit Hedgehog signaling.

They reported their findings in the journal Stem Cells published online on July 19.

Our study lends evidence to the idea that the lack of effective therapies for glioblastoma may be due to the survival of a rare population of cancer stem cells that appear immune to conventional radiation and chemotherapy, says Charles G. Eberhart, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pathology, ophthalmology and oncology, who led the work. Hedgehog inhibition kills these cancer stem cells and prevents cancer from growing and may thus develop into the first stem cell-directed therapy for glioblastoma.

Eberhart cautioned that while his study appears to prove the principle of Hedgehog blocking, much work remains before cyclopamine or any similar drug can be tested in patients. Scientists must determine whether the drug can be effectively and safely delivered to the whole body or whether it must go into the brain, and what if any adverse impact on normal stem cells the treatment might cause.

Once youve answered those questions in animals, the next step would be starting phase I clinical trials in humans, Eberhart said.

The new study adds to the growing evidence that only a small percentage of cancer cells - in this case stem cells - are capable of unlimited self-renewal and that these cells alone power a tumors growth.

Eberhart focused
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Contact: Vanessa Wasta
wastava@jhmi.edu
410-955-1287
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Source:Eurekalert

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