Stem Cell

UCI researchers use stem cells as cancer-seeking missiles

A close-up of cell mutations that cause cancer.
A close-up of cell mutations that cause cancer. Steve Gschmeissner/Science Source

Chemotherapy is brutal — a medicinal atomic bomb that destroys large swaths of cells, both cancerous and normal. And as a result, patients are often left physically devastated.

In a new study published in Science Translational Medicine, scientists at UC Irvine say they’ve come up with a way to use stem cells to help ameliorate those side effects. Think of it as a surgical strike with cancer-seeking missiles.

Professor Weian Zhao and his colleagues from UC Irvine modified stem cells so that they’d be attracted to enzymes released by breast cancer tumors. So, when injected into the body, the stem cells seek out the cells and bond with them.

The enzymes the scientists identified cause tissue to clump up into bundles of collagen and protein to create stiff tumors. The tumors become lumps that a patient can sometimes feel, and they act as a protective home for the…