Experts are looking at the potential of stem cell therapy in developing new therapies aimed at conditions that do not respond well to treatment, such as non-small cell lung cancer.
Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is one of the two main types of lung cancer. Evidence suggests that roughly 80–85%Trusted Source of lung cancer is NSCLC. It occurs when cells that line the lungs grow abnormally.
Lung cancer is one of the most common cancersTrusted Source worldwide and is the leading cause of cancer-related death, representing about 25%Trusted Source of cancer deaths. Most lung cancer-related deaths are due to treatment failure and the spreading of cancer cells to distant sites (metastasis).
Current research proposes that NSCLC’s resistance to treatment and fast progression is due to the presence of specific types of cancer cells, called cancer stem cells (CSCs), which have the ability of normal stem cells, allowing them to divide and proliferate.
Stem cell therapy is a field of regenerative medicine that utilizes people’s own cells to promote healing, repair damaged tissue, and help boost the immune response to fight off cancer cells and infections.
In this article, we look at whether stem cell therapy is a viable treatment for NSCLC along with other new treatment breakthroughs.
Currently, there are limited studies that prove the effectiveness of using stem cell therapy in treating NSCLC, and the majority of these are still under clinical trials. Growing evidence suggests that stem cell therapy may also have some potential to treat other lung conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
While a few clinical studies suggest some promise of stem cell therapy in treating NSCLC, more research is necessary due to potential concerns regarding the effectiveness and safety of the therapy. At present, many experts do not recommend this therapy due to the potential risks, lack of proven benefits, and costs.
However, researchers continue to investigate the potential benefits. For example, a 2021 study indicates that mesenchymal stem cells may be able to inhibit NSCLC cells in a lab setting. An animal study also found that giving human-induced neural stem cells intravenously to mice was safe and reduced NSCLC tumor cells by seeking and killing them.
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It’s been about half a century since the first transplant of bone marrow from a donor to a recipient was completed. Since then, bone marrow transplantation has become an integral part of care for many patients with persistent leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma and other blood cancers, as well as noncancerous blood disorders such as sickle cell disease. Specifically, we are transplanting stem cells — nascent cells with the capacity to mature into functioning blood and immune system cells — from a matched or partially matched donor into the body of a patient whose own blood-forming system has been destroyed with toxic medication to make way for a healthy new system to grow and develop.
In recent years, however, our field has expanded to include other treatments that work in similar ways as bone marrow transplantation. They are collectively known as “cellular therapies” because they do one of three things: provide healthy new cells to replace diseased cells, release an influx of specially modified immune cells to teach the body’s immune cells how to fight disease, or provide cells that connect immune cells with cancer cells they are designed to kill. Study after study has demonstrated how these approaches are extending patients’ lives. This progression of therapies is reflected in bone marrow transplant services around the country, many of which — including our own at Hackensack University Medical Center — now include the words “cellular therapy” in their names.
It is an exciting time for those of us in the stem cell transplantation and cellular therapy field. For years, we have concentrated on improving the outcomes of stem cell transplants. We have significantly improved techniques to reduce the risk of graft-versus-host disease, a potentially serious complication of transplantation that occurs when immune cells from the donor identify the tissues of the recipient as foreign and attack them, causing a host of inflammatory symptoms. We have learned which medications to give to prevent post-transplant infections such as cytomegalovirus, a common virus that can be damaging in people with compromised immune systems. We are using stem cells from umbilical cord blood to perform more transplants in adult patients. And we have matched more patients with donors by learning how to perform “haploidentical” transplants, where the patient receives a transplant from someone who is partially matched immunologically. These advances are making stem cell transplantation a safer and more effective treatment option for more patients who need them.
But where we are really seeing a revolution in care is the field of cellular therapy — particularly CAR T-cell immunotherapy. Cancer cells have found ways to escape being detected and destroyed by immune cells. Immunotherapies work by helping the immune system find and kill cancer cells.
With CAR T-cell therapy, immune cells called T cells are removed from the patient, genetically modified in a lab to recognize and attach to certain targets on cancer cells, grown to larger quantities (hundreds of millions), and returned to the patient. There, the modified T cells can find, bind to and kill cancer cells. The treatment is given intravenously. Long after the patient goes home, however, his or her newly educated immune cells continue to detect and destroy cancer cells, which is why this treatment is often referred to as a “living therapy.”
CAR T-cell therapies are typically administered in bone marrow transplantation units, and for good reason: Patients receive chemotherapy beforehand, which reduces the immune response. The treatment itself can cause immunologic side effects which, albeit temporary, can be severe — including high fever, body aches and chills. The administration of CAR T-cell therapies requires round-the-clock care from a specially trained and credentialed team. As bone marrow transplant specialists, our experience and knowledge of immunology enable us to recognize and manage the inflammatory complications that may result.
Current CAR T-cell therapies are FDA-approved for the treatment of recurrent or persistent diffuse B-cell lymphoma, follicular lymphoma, multiple myeloma and mantle cell lymphoma (which is a very aggressive and challenging cancer) in adults, as well as acute lymphoblastic leukemia in children and young adults up to age 25. We are intrigued by other innovative cellular therapies under study in clinical trials, such as natural killer (NK) cells and tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs). These treatments are made from a patient’s own tumor tissue, so it has already been exposed to the patient’s own immune system. Immune cells within a tumor, which on their own were unable to kill the cancer, are isolated from tumor tissue removed during surgery, modified and multiplied in a lab, and returned to the patient with other medications to boost the immune response against cancer.
Not only is the technology getting better, but the types of tumors we are treating is broadening. New CAR T-cell therapies, NK and TIL treatments, and another approach that combines CAR T-cell and NK therapies may broaden the application of these “living therapies” to patients with solid tumors, including melanoma, breast cancer and pancreatic cancer. We’re also looking at combining cellular immunotherapies with stem cell transplantation to augment the anticancer immune response even further.
Cellular therapies are truly game-changers in cancer care. It has been inspirational for us as bone marrow transplant professionals to be part of their development. What we’re witnessing now is just the tip of the iceberg. We’re only getting better at identifying the best immune cells and engineering them in the best fashion to harness the immune system in the most effective way. Discovery is exponential and the field of immunotherapy is growing at warp speed. It’s not impossible to think that we’re going to be curing cancer.
Michele Donato, MD, is chief of the Adult Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapy Program at John Theurer Cancer Center, Hackensack University Medical Center.
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Author: Greta Gohring (Research Assistant, Organicell Regenerative Medicine)
Regenerative Medicine is a rapidly expanding sector of biotechnology with numerous innovative therapeutics. Regenerative medicine encompasses a multitude of specialties such as orthopedics, immunology, and cardiology, while following common trends within the fields of tissue and cell engineering. In contrast to common symptom-targeting therapeutics, which temporarily relieve and subdue conditions, regenerative medicine is designed to reprogram damaged or diseased tissues back to a healthy state. Through reprogramming, regenerative medicine has the potential to provide long-term effects in chronic and reoccurring symptomatic diseases.
Stem cell and other cell-based therapies have proven to be strong therapeutic candidates for many regenerative and tissue restorative applications. However, complications with post transplantation viability, clinical reproducibility, and large-scale development have stalled these products in the path to drug approval.
In an effort to enhance and build from the lessons learned in cell-based research and clinical trials, researchers have begun to shift focus to cell-to-cell secreted factors such as extracellular vesicles. Extracellular vesicles, secreted from the cell membrane or the cell’s internal recycling pathways, carry many of the same molecular messengers and factors found to be therapeutic in cell therapies.
Therefore, through the development of technologies to isolate extracellular vesicles from sources such as cell cultures and biologic fluids, extracellular vesicle-based therapies have begun to take center stage in regenerative medicine clinical applications.
Therapeutic Potential of Exosomes
Exosomes are a subtype of extracellular vesicles derived from the cell’s recycling pathway, specifically the endosome. During exosome formation, small nucleic acids, enzymes, and other molecular mediators are packaged into lipid membranes and secreted out of the cells. These exosomes are then absorbed by surrounding cells as a form of cell-to-cell communication.
The absorption of exosomes into various cell types can lead to modifications in gene expression, cell metabolism, and other signaling pathways. Depending on the cell of origin, exosomes have been linked to regenerative effects via the suppression of pro-inflammatory response and immune activation, as well as the promotion of cell proliferation and enhancement of tissue wound healing.
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Organicell Regenerative Medicine: Advances of Exosome-Based Therapeutics in the Clinic | BioInformant
Neurodegenerative diseases damage and destroy neurons, ravaging both mental and physical health. Parkinson’s disease, which affects over 10 million people worldwide, is no exception. The most obvious symptoms of Parkinson’s disease arise after the illness damages a specific class of neuron located in the midbrain. The effect is to rob the brain of dopamine — a key neurotransmitter produced by the affected neurons.
In new research, Jeffrey Kordower and his colleagues describe a process for converting non-neuronal cells into functioning neurons able to take up residence in the brain, send out their fibrous branches across neural tissue, form synapses, dispense dopamine and restore capacities undermined by Parkinson’s destruction of dopaminergic cells.
The current proof-of-concept study reveals that one group of experimentally engineered cells performs optimally in terms of survival, growth, neural connectivity, and dopamine production, when implanted in the brains of rats. The study demonstrates that the result of such neural grafts is to effectively reverse motor symptoms due to Parkinson’s disease.
Stem cell replacement therapy represents a radical new strategy for the treatment of Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. The futuristic approach will soon be put to the test in the first of its kind clinical trial, in a specific population of Parkinson’s disease sufferers, bearing a mutation in the gene parkin. The trial will be conducted at various locations, including the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, with Kordower as principal investigator.
The work is supported through a grant from the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
“We cannot be more excited by the opportunity to help individuals who suffer from this genetic form of Parkinson’s disease, but the lessons learned from this trial will also directly impact patients who suffer from sporadic, or non-genetic forms of this disease,” Kordower says.
Kordower directs the ASU-Banner Neurodegenerative Disease Research Center at Arizona State University and is the Charlene and J. Orin Edson Distinguished Director at the Biodesign Institute. The new study describes in detail the experimental preparation of stem cells suitable for implantation to reverse the effects of Parkinson’s disease.
The research appears in the current issue of the npj journal Nature Regenerative Medicine.
New perspectives on Parkinson’s disease
You don’t have to be a neuroscientist to identify a neuron. Such cells, with their branching arbor of axons and dendrites are instantly recognizable and look like no other cell type in the body. Through their electrical impulses, they exert meticulous control over everything from heart rate to speech. Neurons are also the repository of our hopes and anxieties, the source of our individual identity.
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If you’ve suffered from a ligament or joint damage like an ACL tear, MCL tear, meniscus tear, or rotator cuff tear, or if you need knee replacement or shoulder, hip, neck, back, elbow, or any other orthopedic surgeries, we believe that stem cell treatment is a better option than surgery.
- After stem cell treatment, your body repairs and heals itself. You will generate new cartilage and ligaments, giving you the same feel and function you had before the injury.
- You’ll enjoy a faster healing time. Your body only needs to heal the original injury, not the trauma of surgery in addition to the injury.
- Your own original, actual tissue is much better for your body than anything surgery can create.
- You won’t have to take powerful, risky medications to manage your pain as you heal. The more powerful the medicine, the more powerful the side effects – so it’s good to avoid them if you can.
- Best of all, we are using your own body to heal you. There are no side effects.
To learn more, please contact Miami Stem Cell (305) 598-7777 or visit us at: www.stemcellmia.com