Delivering anticancer therapy to hazardous brain tumors, called “glioblastomas,” could possibly be realized through genetic engineering of a specific type of cell with the ability to regenerate as that of the olfactory neurons. Researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), in their report published in Journal of the National Cancer Institute, have described potential of utilizing olfactory ensheathing cells for delivering anticancer agent to the tumor cells. The report also provides intelligence on the way this treatment prolonged survival by reducing the tumor size in a mouse model.
Glioblastomas have been deemed as the most malignant and aggressive type of brain tumors, and always almost recur despite treated with intensive surgery radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, according to PhD Bakhos Tannous – Neuro Oncology Division in MGH Department of Neurology. Olfactory ensheathing cells are present in nostrils of mammals, including humans, which can migrate from nasal cavity to the inflammation sites, acting as a “Trojan Horse.” These help in delivering cell-killing therapies, which bypass barriers that restrict anti-cancer agents to enter the brain.
A rare visual in the nervous system is that olfactory cells have the ability to regenerate, while new neurons in nasal cavity should project “axon” fibers to olfactory bulb in the brain itself. Growing axons are surrounded by olfactory ensheathing cells that aid their regeneration and engulf debris from damaged & dead brain cells. Ability of the olfactory ensheathing cells to promote the neural regeneration is leading toward analyses on their potential for treating neurodegenerative disorders such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and spinal cord injuries.
Intranasal drug delivery is also being elucidated as a medium for bypassing blood brain barrier, on account of the direct link between the brain and the nasal cavity. Capability of the olfactory ensheathing cells to attract inflammatory molecules by entering into the brain has led the MGH researchers to make further investigations on their potency in use against glioblastomas. These researchers first implied that labeled olfactory ensheathing cells introduced into nasal cavity of mice, via experimentally-induced human gliomas, traveled to sites wherein tumor cells were injected, and trailed the tumor-initiating cells while infiltrating the adjacent brain tissue.
Tannous believes that strong attraction of olfactory ensheathing cells toward the inflammatory cues emanated by tumor cells points at the fact that the olfactory ensheathing cells have the potency to be used as therapeutic tools against brain cancer and tumors.