Greater Kashmir / Kashmir-born scientist leads discovery of cancer-killing stem cells

SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association)

A team of researchers led by a Kashmir-born scientist have discovered a way of turning stem cells into killing machines to fight brain cancer, BBC has reported.

In experiments on mice, the stem cells were genetically engineered to produce and secrete toxins which kill brain tumours, without killing normal cells or themselves, a report about the study in the BBC said.

The study, published in the journal Stem Cells, is the work of scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute led by Dr Khalid Shah, a Kashmir-born US scientist.

Shah, lead author and director of the molecular neurotherapy and imaging lab at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, told the BBC that the results were very positive.

“After doing all of the molecular analysis and imaging to track the inhibition of protein synthesis within brain tumours, we do see the toxins kill the cancer cells.”

He added: “Cancer-killing toxins have been used with great success in a variety of blood cancers, but they don’t work as well in solid tumours because the cancers aren’t as accessible and the toxins have a short half-life.”

But genetically engineering stem cells has changed all that, he said. “Now, we have toxin-resistant stem cells that can make and release cancer-killing drugs.”

Researchers have said the next stage was to test the procedure in humans.

For many years, the researchers had been researching a stem-cell-based therapy for cancer, which would kill only tumour cells and no others. They used genetic engineering to make stem cells that spewed out cancer-killing toxins, but, crucially, were also able to resist the effects of the poison they were producing.

They also posed no risk to normal, healthy cells.

In animal tests, the stem cells were surrounded in gel and placed at the site of the brain tumour after it had been removed.

Dr Shah told BBC he now plans to test the technique using a number of different therapies on mice with glioblastoma, the most common brain tumour in human adults.

He hopes the therapies could be used in clinical trials within the next five years.

Dr. Shah—who recently delivered a lecture at the University of Kashmir—is the Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Boston USA. He is the Director of the Stem Cell Therapeutics and Imaging program at and also heads the Molecular Neurotherapy and Imaging Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He is also a Principal Faculty at Harvard Stem Cell Institute in Boston.

His studies have been published in a number of very high impact journals like Nature Neuroscience, PNAS, Stem Cells and Lancet Oncology, validating the use of therapeutic stem cells alone and in combination with clinically approved drugs for cancer therapy.

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