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Fat Kills Cancer: Turning Stem Cells from Fat Tissue into,Personalized, Cancer-Targeted Therapeutics

PHILADELPHIA, July 3, 2007 ? Researchers in Slovakia have been able to derive mesenchymal stem cells from human adipose, or fat, tissue and engineer them into “suicide genes” that seek out and destroy tumors like tiny homing missiles. This gene therapy approach is a novel way to attack small tumor metastases that evade current detection techniques and treatments, the researchers conclude in the July 1 issue of Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

“These fat-derived stem cells could be exploited for personalized cell-based therapeutics,” said the study’s lead investigator, Cestmir Altaner, Ph.D., D.Sc., an associate professor in the Cancer Research Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences in Bratislava. “Nearly everyone has some fat tissue they can spare, and this tissue could be a source of cells for cancer treatment that can be adapted into specific vehicles for drug transport.”

Mesenchymal stem cells help repair damaged tissue and organs by renewing injured cells. They are also found in the mass of normal cells that mix with cancer cells to make up a solid tumor. Researchers believe mesenchymal stem cells “see” a tumor as a damaged organ and migrate to it, and so might be utilized as a “vehicle” for treatment that can find both primary tumors and small metastases. These stem cells also have some plasticity, which means they can be converted by the micro environment of a given tissue into specialized cells, Altaner says.

After extracting the stem cells from human fat tissue the researchers worked to find a less toxic way to treat colon cancer than the standard-of-care chemotherapy agent, 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), which can produce toxic side effects in normal cells. They expanded the number of mesenchymal stem cells in the laboratory and then used a retrovirus vector to i
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