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Stem cells help block cancer in mice


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Stem cells help block cancer in mice

Tumors killed, healthy cells untouched, scientists say

Updated: 12:32 p.m. ET March 30, 2004WASHINGTON - Stem cells, immature cells already showing promise as tools to regenerate and replace damaged tissue, may also help target and destroy cancer, U.S. scientists said on Monday.

Tests in mice showed the cells could deliver powerful cancer-killing proteins, destroying tumors while leaving healthy cells untouched.

Dr. Michael Andreeff and colleagues at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston used cells taken from bone marrow. These immature cells, known as mesenchymal stem cells, usually give rise to muscle and other tissues.

The researchers genetically engineered these cells to carry interferon alpha, an immune system protein that can help kill cancer cells, or a cancer-destroying virus.

Cells attracted to cancers

In mice these cells slowed several kinds of leukemia, attacked melanoma -- skin cancer and breast cancer cells --that had spread to the lung, and tackled brain tumors.

The approach cured 70 percent of mice implanted with one kind of human ovarian cancer, the researchers told a meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research in Orlando, Florida.

“This drug delivery system is attracted to cancers, both primary and metastatic, and anti-tumor effects are observed when the cells integrate into the tumor micro-environment,” Andreeff said in a statement.

“The most important discovery here is that these cells are capable of migrating from the bone marrow or blood circulation selectively into tumors and produce anti-tumor agents only at the sites of these tumors and their metastasis.”

Andreeff said tumors attract mesenchymal stem cells by sending out signals similar to those sent by damaged tissue.

Copyright 2004 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters.

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Bush still against embryonic stem-cell research

Despite Nancy Reagan's support for controversial process

The Associated Press

Updated: 9:26 a.m. ET June 09, 2004SEA ISLAND, Ga. -

Ronald Reagan’s death from complications of Alzheimer’s disease has not changed President Bush’s stand against using embryos for stem cell research, Laura Bush said Wednesday.

Former first lady Nancy Reagan and others believe the use of stem cells from embryos could lead to cures for such illnesses as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Bush’s executive order in August 2001, however, limited federal research funding for stem cell research to 78 embryonic stem cell lines then in existence.

“We need to balance the interest in science with moral issues,” Mrs. Bush said on NBC’s “Today” show, adding that there’s going to be an increasing number of people suffering from the disease as the baby boom population ages.

Available lines contaminated

Stem cells can be taken from days-old human embryos and then grown in a laboratory into lines or colonies. Embryos are destroyed when the cells are extracted, a process opposed by some people who link it to abortion.

In a letter to the president the day before Reagan died, 58 senators asked Bush to relax federal restrictions. The letter said only 19 of those lines are now available to researchers and those available are contaminated with mouse feeder cells, making their use for humans uncertain.

“We have to be really careful between what we want to do for science and what we should do ethically and the stem cell issue is certainly one of those issues that we need to treat very carefully,” Mrs. Bush said on “The Early Show” on CBS.

On ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Mrs. Bush referred to alternatives to “abusing embryos” in research. “There are stem cell embryos ready that people can use for research, but it’s a very delicate line,” she said.

Mrs. Bush is with the president in Sea Island, Ga., for an economic summit of the eight largest industrial nations.

© 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

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