Published online Jan. 21 by PLoS (Public Library of Science) One, the study led by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting early stage cancer precursor cells with stem-cell-like properties may explain how some cancers form, are treatment resistant and prone to relapse. The study also underscores the increasing potential of targeted biological therapies to help people with stubborn cancers like neuroblastoma, which often recur and metastasize, said Timothy Cripe, M.D., Ph.D., senior investigator and a physician/researcher in the division of Hematology/Oncology at Cincinnati Children’s.
“The main finding of our study is that pediatric neuroblastomas seem to have a population of cells with stem-cell characteristics that we may need to target for therapy,” Dr. Cripe said. “We also show that one promising approach for targeted treatment is biological therapy, such as an engineered oncolytic virus that seeks out and kills progenitor cells that could be the seeds of cancers.”
Neuroblastoma’s solid tumors usually attack the sympathetic nervous system, part of the body’s autopilot mechanism that controls vital organ function and instinctive responses, like “fight or flight.” The disease can be thrown into remission by chemotherapy, radiation or surgery, but it’s also known for treatment resistance and a high rate of relapse and death. In patients with high-risk forms of the disease, long-term survival rates are less than 50 percent. The reasons for neuroblastoma’s tendency to relapse and spread still need to be proven, said Dr. Cripe, also professor of Pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.