Using Fat to Fight Cancer: Engineering Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells With Nanotechnology to Serve as Trojan Horses for the Treatment of Cancer

The Brain Tumor Stem Cell Research Lab is preparing to translate its provisionally patented research on using mesenchymal stem cells to treat cancer into clinical trials at Mayo Clinic.

Dr. Quinones-Hinojosa's research team has found that when human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) are packed with the bone morphogenetic protein 4 (BMP4) protein — either through the lab's novel nanoparticle formulation or via viral re-engineering — brain tumor initiating cells (BTICs) are rendered extremely sensitive to chemotherapy and radiation, with significant shrinkage in tumor volume.

The team's data has shown that its treatment group survived extraordinarily longer than patients who did not receive this treatment, indicating that this method could serve as a safe and readily available source of local therapy.

Mesenchymal stem cells isolated from fat have an inherent tropic ability to carry cargo and migrate to areas of injury in the body, such as glioblastoma. Their ability to sense areas of insult make them great gene delivery vehicles that are safe, autologous, biodegradable, bioavailable, hypoimmunogenic and noncancerous — allowing for specific targeting of BTICs while sparing healthy tissue.

The only local therapy for glioblastoma today is Gliadel, approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1997. Gliadel has a 43 percent complication rate and marginal benefits to controls. Dr. Quinones-Hinojosa's team believes that its new approach could offer patients a significantly better option.

Project team

Lab members developing clinical trials on the use of mesenchymal stem cells as Trojan horses to treat glioblastoma include: