Adult Stem Cell Research Provides Help for Children With Brain Tumors

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 7, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Adult Stem Cell Research Provides Help for Children With Brain Tumors Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 7
, 2006

Memphis, TN ( — The use of adult stem cells continues to outpace embryonic stem cell research as scientists report they have come up with a new treatment for children with brain tumors called medulloblastomas. Children with the high-risk tumors have a low 30-40 percent chance of surviving and living to the age of 5 and chemotherapy can take as long as a year.

But, Dr. Amar Gajjar of St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis says using a patient’s own stem cells is having an amazing effect in treating the cancer.

"Not only can we now cure about 70 percent of children with high-risk medulloblastoma, we can also cure more than 80 percent of those with standard-risk disease with a shorter, and therefore more convenient, chemotherapy approach," he says.

The research team’s results appear in the latest issue of The Lancet Oncology.

The team used radiation therapy tailored to the severity of the disease followed by a shorter course of chemotherapy than is normally used. That’s made possible because the adult stem cells are implanted after each round of chemotherapy allowing the child’s body to recover from the damage the previous round caused before moving on.

Of 134 children with medulloblastoma who underwent treatment (86 average-risk, 48 high-risk), 119 (89%) completed the study. Some 85 percent of the patients in the average-risk group and 70% of those in the high-risk group lived to the age of 5 years old.

Overall, the adult stem cell treatment increased the survival rate by 70 percent.

The research team concluded that the stem cell therapy "can be used to improve the outcome of patients with high-risk medulloblastoma."

"By reducing the amount of [chemotherapy drug] cisplatin from eight doses to four doses, and the amount of vincristine from 32 doses to just eight doses, we could alleviate a lot of the neurotoxicity associated with the higher dose of vincristine without reducing survival," Gajjar said.

Gajjar said that the stem cell therapy his team used could become commonplace.

"This approach should be feasible in most pediatric oncology units at academic medical centers," he said.