Stem cells loaded with herpes virus for brain tumor therapy

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Charles S. Cobbs, MD

The Gregory Foltz, MD Endowed Director
Ben & Catherine Ivy Center for
Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment
Swedish Neuroscience Specialists

 

I would like to discuss findings from a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute a couple of months ago by a group at Harvard. The title of the article is “Stem cells loaded with multi-mechanistic oncolytic herpes simplex virus variants for brain tumor therapy”.  The authors have taken a fairly complex approach to a novel treatment. For over a decade, investigators have looked at the possibility that mutant herpes simplex-1 virus, that has had the gene in it removed that affects and kills normal brain cells, could be utilized to selectively kill tumor cells while leaving normal brain cells intact. The strategy had the potential to cause side effects given the fact that normal herpes simplex -I virus is known to be able to potentially cause severe brain infection. Nevertheless with the development of these less neurovirulent  herpes simplex viruses, investigators have tried to use them to target tumors.

One interesting aspect of this complex treatment algorithm was that the investigators used a type of stem cell that normally circulates in the bone marrow as a reservoir of the virus. It is known that these stem cells,  called mesenchymal stem cells, if injected into the bone marrow, will hone in to the tumor.  Thus, the concept is that these mesenchymal stem cells could function as a “Trojan Horse” delivering this tumor killing virus directly to glioblastoma.  This concept is not novel since investigators at M.D. Anderson in the past have utilized this approach with another “oncolytic” virus – adenovirus.  In any event, these researchers at Harvard were able to show that if they took mesenchymal stem cells out of a mouse and infected them with their mutant virus, and then gave them back to the mouse, these cells would go into the tumor and kill tumor cells.

This complex strategy for targeting brain tumor is years away from any likely clinical trial in humans although it is intriguing. What is the immediate impact of this research on patients suffering from glioblastoma currently?   Likely there will be little direct impact.  However,  it’s possible that this strategy may in the future lead to treatment algorithms that could benefit glioblastoma patients.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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