Olfactory Ensheathing Cells for Pediatric Glioma Gene/Cell Therapy
Childhood brain tumors are the second most common type of pediatric cancer. Overall, survival and treatment-related long-term side effects are far worse compared to other children with solid tumors and hematological malignancies. The prognosis of brain tumors in children has improved over the past decades; however, one third of these patients cannot be cured. For high-grade gliomas, the most aggressive brain tumors in children, the prognosis is even worse. Despite intensive multimodality treatment (surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy), refractory disease and relapse are frequent events. Thus, there is a clear need for improved therapy. Olfactory ensheathing cells (OEC) are a specific cell type found in the nervous system and are responsible for replacing the olfactory neurons present in the nose. These cells can migrate to inflammation/injury site and have been shown to protect neurons in certain pathological conditions.
In this proposal, we will evaluate—for the first time—the potential use of OECs for the treatment of high-grade pediatric gliomas by either delivering an anti-cancer agent or by making the cancer cells susceptible to radiotherapy. These cells are easily obtained from the olfactory bulb of patients, allowing autologous transplantation where a patient’s own cells can be used for personal treatment. If successful, this proposal could provide a novel and improved therapeutic strategy for young patients with brain cancer leading to an increase in their overall survival and improved quality of life.
Project Update 2020
Olfactory ensheathing cells (OEC) are a specific cell type found in the nervous system and are responsible for replacing the olfactory neurons present in the nose. Since these cells can migrate to inflammation/injury site and were shown to protect neurons in certain pathological conditions, we hypothesized that OECs can be used as a vehicle to track brain tumors in children and deliver an anti-cancer agent to kill them, or by making the cancer cells themselves susceptible to radiotherapy. In the last year of funding, we proved this hypothesis in different pediatric brain tumor cells growing in a dish. Our next aim is to show the effect of OEC using animal models carrying pediatric brain tumors.