Believe it or not.
European researchers say they have found a way to take stem cells from human fat tissue and genetically manipulate them into "guided missiles" that seek out and destroy cancerous tumors.
This amazing new approach may provide doctors with a way to attack tiny cancers that are all but invisible to the naked eye and are missed by current detection techniques.
"These fat-derived stem cells could be exploited for personalized cell-based therapeutics," says the study's lead investigator, Cestmir Altaner, associate professor in the Cancer Research Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences in Bratislava, Slovakia. "Nearly everyone has some fat tissue they can spare, and this tissue could be a source of cells for cancer treatment that can be adapted into specific vehicles for drug transport."
Called mesenchymal stem cells, these cells repair damaged tissue and organs inside our bodies. They are also found inside tumors alongside cancer cells. It has been believed that because mesenchymal stem cells read a tumor as a damaged organ and migrate to it, they might serve as a vehicle for treating both primary tumors and small metastases. These stem cells have the added advantage of being able to be converted into specialized cells that act on particular tissues.
The Slovakian study involved extracting stem cells from human fat tissue and using them to treat colon cancer in mice.
When the researchers injected the mice with engineered mesenchymal stem cells, they found tumor growth was inhibited by up to 68.5 percent, with none of the mice exhibiting any toxic side effects.
Although none of the animals was completely cured of cancer, "the procedure was quite effective even though we applied the stem cells just once. Obviously, repeated treatment will increase the efficacy, as would using this strategy in combination with other treatments," Altaner says. The research was published in the July 1, 2007 issue of Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.