Stem Cells take on chemotherapy side effects

Researchers find a way to use stem cells to fight the side effects of chemotherapy

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Scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have been working on a way to lessen the harmful side effects of chemotherapy. Chemo is used as a therapy to kill cancer cells, but has heavy negative side effects for the people being treated.

Researchers have been able to use stem cells to protect bone marrow, which is one of the tissues often damaged by this treatment. When the bone marrow is affected negatively, fewer blood cells are produced, making a person’s body more susceptible to infection – one of the great concerns for chemo patients. It also increases the fatigue experienced.

It is now believed, however, that stem cells have the potential to act as a ‘shield’ to protect patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment from the harmful side effects.

During a study on the subject, researchers extracted bone marrow from certain cancer patients and isolated the stem cells. They then exposed the cells to a virus that protected the cells from chemotherapy drugs. After that, the treated stem cells were re-implanted into the patients. All those involved in the experimental treatment lived longer than the average survival time for cancer patients.

According to Hans-Peter Kiern of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, researchers found that patients were able to tolerate the chemotherapy better and without negative side effects after transplantation of the gene-modified stem cells than patients in previous studies who received the same type of chemotherapy without a transplant of gene-modified stem cells”.

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Colleen Delaney and Shelly Heimfeld of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Institute will be speaking at the World Cord Blood Congress 2012 this September in Washington, D.C.

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