Hematopoietic stem cell transplants have been used to saved the lives of many thousands of cancer patients over the past few decades. They have been an absolute game changer in terms of survival rates.
However, before receiving a stem cell transfusion, cancer patients need to be treated with high dose of chemotherapy and radiation. This treatment kills the mutated cells which are causing the patient’s cancer, in a process known as ‘conditioning’.
Once the mutated cells have been killed, a stem cell transplant is used to restore the patient’s ability to produce healthy cells. Unfortunately, chemotherapy and radiation both have significant side effects and can kill healthy cells. These risks limit the number of patients eligible for stem cell transplants.
A new article published by the American Chemical Society, suggests that researchers are making steps towards safer stem cell transplants. The new therapies are highly targeted and will allow more patients to safely undergo stem cell transplants in the future.
One of the most promising new approaches is to use human antibodies which target proteins on diseased hematopoietic stem cells. This helps the antibodies locate and kill a patient’s cancer-causing cells without damaging healthy cells.
This targeted conditioning treatment will also result in fewer dangerous side effects. It could allow more patients with cancer, genetic diseases, and autoimmune disorders to receive stem cell transplants.
However, the scientists working on this new method do caution that it will not solve other issues like immune rejection and it may not be useful for treating certain types of cancers. Further research projects will test the usefulness of this new procedure.