The scientific community has been focusing recently on the use of mesenchymal stem cells to treat cancer. The unique characteristic of mesenchymal cells to migrate to the tumor, to then penetrate the tumor and simultaneously suppress the immune system, makes them suitable "vehicles" for anticancer agents and therapeutic genes.
Compared with other types of adult stem cells, umbilical cord blood mesenchymal stem cells are more suitable for the treatment of cancer, since they can easily and in relatively large quantities be isolated after birth, and they can also differentiate into a broader range of other cells.
There are encouraging reports from preclinical studies that show that intravenous infusion of mesenchymal stem cells could inhibit the development of malignant tumors in some cancers such as breast, lung, colorectal, melanoma and glioma (brain tumor). Equally promising is the use of genetically modified mesenchymal stem cells for the transport of anticancer agents that act selectively against cancer cells and can cause the tumor to reverse its growth.
The hope for near term therapies targeted against cancer is becoming a reality. The International Association of Pediatric Oncology is sponsoring a clinical trial which has progressed to stage II to treat children with metastatic rhabdomyosarcoma with mesenchymal stem cells.