New stem cell research brings hope for more effective cancer therapies

13 July 2009

Stem Cells1

Dendritic cells differentiated from human embryonic stem cells may provide a more reliable and effective cancer therapy.

A new study, authored by the Geron Corporation and Oxford University Scientists including Dr. Paul Fairchild, Co-Director of the Oxford Stem Cell Institute, highlights the possibility of more cost effective and reliable approaches to cancer immunotherapy.

The data published in this report concern "dendritic cells" (DCs) - cells of the immune system that present foreign antigens to other immune cells (T-cells) thereby directing them to launch an immune attack. DCs can initiate immune responses against aberrant cells in the body, such as tumour cells, as well as against conventional infectious agents, including bacteria and viruses.

However, while cancer therapies currently in development use DCs that are generated from individual patients, this study demonstrates that DCs manufactured from human embryonic stem cells can exhibit the normal functions of DCs occurring naturally in the bloodstream. This is an important discovery, as treatments generated using an individual's own DCs are costly to manufacture and show little consistency. This is due to natural variation between patients, the effects of their disease and any prior treatments they may have received.

DCs manufactured from human embryonic stem cells raise the possibility of a second generation cancer vaccine; a reliable, off-the-shelf product, free from individual patient variability.

Dr Paul Fairchild, Co-Director of the Oxford Stem Cell Institute said: "We are very enthusiastic about these data. [DCs] have great potential as a new vaccine and immunotherapy platform that could have therapeutic value across a range of infectious diseases as well as cancer."

"Generation of immunogenic dendritic cells from human embryonic stem cells without serum and feeder cells" appears online in advance of print in the Journal Regenerative Medicine.

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