PHILADELPHIA — Stem cell therapy may restore cognition in patients with brain cancer who experience functional learning and memory loss often associated with radiation treatment, according to a laboratory study published in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
Charles Limoli, Ph.D., a professor in the department of radiation oncology at the University of California, Irvine, said radiation therapy is the standard of care for most brain cancers, but the side effects can be devastating.
“In almost every instance, people experience severe cognitive impairment that is progressive, debilitating and adversely impacts quality of life,” he said. “Pediatric cancer patients can experience a drop of up to three IQ points per year.”
In the current study, Limoli and colleagues subjected rats to cranial irradiation and followed up two days later with human neural stem cell transplants. A significant proportion of these cells survived and turned into brain cells found at one- and four-month evaluations. Cognitive function significantly improved compared with control rats.
Limoli said the findings of this study were significant, and may help pave the way for a human safety trial to be conducted within a few years if appropriate funding can be secured. Neural stem cells like those used in this study do not present the same ethical questions as embryonic stem cells.
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The mission of the American Association for Cancer Research is to prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1907, the AACR is the world’s oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research. The membership includes 33,000 basic, translational and clinical researchers; health care professionals; and cancer survivors and advocates in the United States and more than 90 other countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise from the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer through high-quality scientific and educational programs. It funds innovative, meritorious research grants, research fellowships and career development awards. The AACR Annual Meeting attracts more than 18,000 participants who share the latest discoveries and developments in the field. Special conferences throughout the year present novel data across a wide variety of topics in cancer research, treatment and patient care. Including Cancer Discovery, the AACR publishes seven major peer-reviewed journals: Cancer Research; Clinical Cancer Research; Molecular Cancer Therapeutics; Molecular Cancer Research; Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention; and Cancer Prevention Research. AACR journals represented 20 percent of the market share of total citations in 2009. The AACR also publishes CR, a magazine for cancer survivors and their families, patient advocates, physicians and scientists.