Promising Stem Cell Therapy for Children with Renal Cancer

TAU researchers discover potential alternative to dangerous chemotherapy treatment

Conventional chemotherapy, which is toxic to the body, can have a particularly devastating impact on children — and even lead to secondary cancers.

Now a team of Tel Aviv University researchers, led by Prof. Benjamin Dekel of TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the head of the Pediatric Stem Cell Research Institute at Sheba Medical Center, has isolated cancer stem cells that lead to the growth of a tumor usually found in the kidneys of young children. His research may lead to an alternative therapy that circumvents such negative side effects.

A small group of cancer stem cells (CSCs) are responsible for the creation and spread of tumors. The researchers' study, published in EMBO Molecular Medicine, details the identification of CSCs in children suffering from Wilms' tumors, which are the most common form of pediatric kidney tumors and known to spread aggressively.

To specifically target these cells, the team took tissue from pediatric patients and grafted it into genetically engineered mice.  They were then able to identify the CSC's in these tumors, and, after identifying the molecules on the cells' surface, develop an antibody drug that targets one of the molecules.

"The targeted elimination of the CSCs fuelling the tumor led to shrinkage and, in some cases, the complete eradication of the tumors we induced in mice — without causing any toxic side effects," explains Prof. Dexel. He notes that this discovery may make the use of chemotherapy in pediatric renal cancer patients redundant in the very near future. The antibody is currently being tested in clinical trials with adult patients, and if approved, may also be tested on children.

For the full story on this alternative stem cell therapy, see the December 24, 2012, Ha'aretz story:
"Israeli researchers developing stem-cell therapy for children with renal cancer"

For more cancer research news from Tel Aviv University, click here.

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