‘Trojan Horse’ brain cancer treatment increases lifespan

7 June 2011

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Category: Research & medical benefits

invitro–cancer–brain.jpgA novel ‘Trojan horse' method of treating brain cancer has increased the survival time of mice by one half.

A cancer-killing virus was introduced into neural stem cells (NSCs) and these infected cells were introduced into mouse brain tumours. This increased the average lifespan of the mice from 63 to 93 days.

The mice had been injected with a human form of brain cancer called glioblastoma, the most common and aggressive form of brain cancer. The average survival time for people with this condition is only 15 months.

These brain tumours are also spread throughout the brain, making them difficult to target with conventional cancer treatments.

Scientists can use viruses to target cancer cells, where they aggressively multiply and so kill the tumour. However, the body's own immune system often quickly destroys the virus before it can reach the tumour.

To avoid this, researchers placed the virus inside NSCs which instinctively migrate towards cancer cells. The NSCs act as a ‘Trojan horse' to hide the virus from the immune system.

Placing the virus inside the NSCs also improved the ability of the NSCs to migrate towards tumours.

Researchers have warned that more research must be done to ensure that NSCs do not themselves contribute to cancer formation.