Use of Stem Cell Technologies for Cancer Treatment
Since the discovery of stem cells thirty decades ago, this technology has grown to become one of the most promising clinical applications for the treatment of various major illnesses, including cancer. Stem cells are produced in the bone marrow, placenta, and blood. Upon maturing, stem cells develop into the three essential blood cell types platelets, white blood cells, and red blood cells. The unique ability of stem cells to self-renew and differentiate to form more cells has been capitalized in the development of new methods of cancer treatment.
Stem cell transplantation in immune-reconstruction
Stem cell transplantation is used to recover stem-forming cells that are destroyed during intensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment for cancer patients. During a stem cell transplant, the body is introduced to new healthy-forming stem cells through the veins to help replace the cells that were destroyed during treatment.
Stem cell transplants can either be autologous or allogenic. In autologous stem cell transplant, stem cells are harvested from your body before treatment and preserved out of your body. After treatment, the cells are then re-injected into your bloodstream, where they can continue forming new healthy blood cells. With an allogeneic transplant, you receive stem cells from a donor. The donor could be a relative or any other person as long as the stem cells are a match.
Production of cancer-specific T lymphocytes
The T lymphocytes in stem cells play a very crucial role in our immune system. They have the ability to identify and destroy abnormal cancer cells. The T cells in cancer patients cannot effectively target and destroy the cancer cells. Through various reprogramming techniques, studies have found ways to generate cancer-specific T cells for cancer patients.
The white blood cells from the donor may also directly act on a tumor by attacking and destroying any cancer cells that might remain after treatment through a process known as graft-versus-tumor. This improves the chances of recovery and lowers chances of relapsing after treatment.
Stem cells as vehicles for transporting reagents and drugs
Stem cells are also used as vectors to transport reagents and drugs to cancer tumors. Stem cells are tumor tropic and immune to cancer, which makes them perfect for gene therapy. Their ability to move and repair injured sites throughout the body is also exploited in cancer treatment.
Current research continues to explore and demonstrate ways in which Stem Cell Technologies can be exploited for cancer treatment. However, the technology is still at infancy and continues to face many challenges. Hopefully, in years to come, stem cell technologies will have advanced enough to be effectively used in treating different types of cancer.