Treating Advanced Breast Cancer With Adult Stem Cells

Bioethics   |   David Prentice, Ph.D.   |   Jul 29, 2011   |   7:13PM   |   Washington, DC

Stanford doctors have shown that women with advanced breast cancer show greater survival when treated with aggressive chemotherapy and their own adult stem cells.

Their study looked at long-term results for women with advanced, stage-4 breast cancer, who were treated 12-14 years ago with high-dose chemotherapy and their own, purified adult stem cells, compared to women who received chemotherapy and unpurified blood stem cells.

While the numbers of patients in this long-term study are small, the results are striking. Five of the 22 women (23 percent) who received their purified adult stem cells are still alive, four of whom have no sign of disease. Only seven of the 74 women (9 percent) who received the untreated cells are still alive, with five of those seven having no sign of disease. Women who received their own purified adult stem cells had a median survival of 60 months, whereas those receiving unpurified stem cells had a median overall survival of 28 months.

Senior author Dr. Judith Shizuru said:

“Our study suggests that the high-dose therapy strategy can be modified to include the use of cancer-free purified blood stem cells to yield better overall outcomes in women with advanced breast cancer.”

The results were published online in the journal Biology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation.