Malignant gliomas are among the deadliest primary brain tumors. Despite multimodal therapy and advances in chemotherapy, imaging, surgical and radiation techniques, these tumors remain virtually incurable. Glioma stem cells may be responsible for resistance to traditional therapies and tumor recurrence. Therefore, elimination of glioma stem cells may be crucial for achieving therapeutic efficacy. Metformin, a small molecule drug widely used in the therapy of type 2 diabetes, has shown significant anti-tumor effects in patients with breast cancer and prostate cancer. Recent preclinical data suggest that metformin also has therapeutic effects against glioma. Here we review the markers and hallmarks of glioma stem cells, and the molecular mechanisms involved in therapeutic targeting of glioma stem cells by metformin.
CPT-11 (irinotecan) has been investigated as a treatment for malignant brain tumors. However, limitations of CPT-11 therapy include low levels of the drug entering brain tumor sites and systemic toxicities associated with higher doses. Neural stem cells (NSCs) offer a novel way to overcome these obstacles because of their inherent tumor tropism and ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, which enables them to selectively target brain tumor sites. Carboxylesterases (CEs) are enzymes that can convert the prodrug CPT-11 (irinotecan) to its active metabolite SN-38, a potent topoisomerase I inhibitor. We have adenovirally transduced an established clonal human NSC line (HB1.F3.CD) to express a rabbit carboxylesterase (rCE) or a modified human CE (hCE1m6), which are more effective at converting CPT-11 to SN-38 than endogenous human CE. We hypothesized that NSC-mediated CE/CPT-11 therapy would allow tumor-localized production of SN-38 and significantly increase the therapeutic efficacy of irinotecan. Here, we report that transduced NSCs transiently expressed high levels of active CE enzymes, retained their tumor-tropic properties, and mediated an increase in the cytotoxicity of CPT-11 toward glioma cells. CE-expressing NSCs (NSC.CEs), whether administered intracranially or intravenously, delivered CE to orthotopic human glioma xenografts in mice. NSC-delivered CE catalyzed conversion of CPT-11 to SN-38 locally at tumor sites. These studies demonstrate the feasibility of NSC-mediated delivery of CE to glioma and lay the foundation for translational studies of this therapeutic paradigm to improve clinical outcome and quality of life in patients with malignant brain tumors.
Numerous stem cell-based therapies are currently under clinical investigation, including the use of neural stem cells (NSCs) as delivery vehicles to target therapeutic agents to invasive brain tumors. The ability to monitor the time course, migration, and distribution of stem cells following transplantation into patients would provide critical information for optimizing treatment regimens. No effective cell-tracking methodology has yet garnered clinical acceptance. A highly promising noninvasive method for monitoring NSCs and potentially other cell types in vivo involves preloading them with ultrasmall superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (USPIOs) to enable cell tracking using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). We report here the preclinical studies that led to U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for first-in-human investigational use of ferumoxytol to label NSCs prior to transplantation into brain tumor patients, followed by surveillance serial MRI. A combination of heparin, protamine sulfate, and ferumoxytol (HPF) was used to label the NSCs. HPF labeling did not affect cell viability, growth kinetics, or tumor tropism in vitro, and it enabled MRI visualization of NSC distribution within orthotopic glioma xenografts. MRI revealed dynamic in vivo NSC distribution at multiple time points following intracerebral or intravenous injection into glioma-bearing mice that correlated with histological analysis. Preclinical safety/toxicity studies of intracerebrally administered HPF-labeled NSCs in mice were also performed, and they showed no significant clinical or behavioral changes, no neuronal or systemic toxicities, and no abnormal accumulation of iron in the liver or spleen. These studies support the clinical use of ferumoxytol labeling of cells for post-transplant MRI visualization and tracking.
High-grade gliomas are extremely difficult to treat because they are invasive and therefore not curable by surgical resection; the toxicity of current chemo- and radiation therapies limits the doses that can be used. Neural stem cells (NSCs) have inherent tumor-tropic properties that enable their use as delivery vehicles to target enzyme/prodrug therapy selectively to tumors. We used a cytosine deaminase (CD)-expressing clonal human NSC line, HB1.F3.CD, to home to gliomas in mice and locally convert the prodrug 5-fluorocytosine to the active chemotherapeutic 5-fluorouracil. In vitro studies confirmed that the NSCs have normal karyotype, tumor tropism, and CD expression, and are genetically and functionally stable. In vivo biodistribution studies demonstrated NSC retention of tumor tropism, even in mice pretreated with radiation or dexamethasone to mimic clinically relevant adjuvant therapies. We evaluated safety and toxicity after intracerebral administration of the NSCs in non-tumor-bearing and orthotopic glioma-bearing immunocompetent and immunodeficient mice. We detected no difference in toxicity associated with conversion of 5-fluorocytosine to 5-fluorouracil, no NSCs outside the brain, and no histological evidence of pathology or tumorigenesis attributable to the NSCs. The average tumor volume in mice that received HB1.F3.CD NSCs and 5-fluorocytosine was about one-third that of the average volume in control mice. On the basis of these results, we conclude that combination therapy with HB1.F3.CD NSCs and 5-fluorocytosine is safe, nontoxic, and effective in mice. These data have led to approval of a first-in-human study of an allogeneic NSC-mediated enzyme/prodrug-targeted cancer therapy in patients with recurrent high-grade glioma.
Antibodies and antibody conjugates have emerged as important tools for cancer therapy. However, a major therapeutic challenge for the use of antibodies is their inability to cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB) to reach tumors localized in the central nervous system (CNS). Multiple methods have been developed to enhance antibody delivery to the CNS, including direct injection, mechanical or biochemical disruption of the BBB, conjugation to a molecular Trojan horse, cationization, encapsulation in nanoparticles and liposomes, and more recently, stem cell-mediated antibody delivery. In this review, we discuss each of these approaches, highlighting their successes and the obstacles that remain to be overcome.
Monoclonal antibodies are important tools for cancer therapy, however, three factors limit their effectiveness: toxicity, poor tumor penetration, and inability to cross the blood-brain barrier. This review discusses the emerging field of stem cell-mediated antibody delivery and how this approach may improve antibody therapy of cancer by overcoming these obstacles.
Recombinant monoclonal antibodies have emerged as important tools for cancer therapy. Despite the promise shown by antibody-based therapies, the large molecular size of antibodies limits their ability to efficiently penetrate solid tumors and precludes efficient crossing of the blood-brain-barrier into the central nervous system (CNS). Consequently, poorly vascularized solid tumors and CNS metastases cannot be effectively treated by intravenously-injected antibodies. The inherent tumor-tropic properties of human neural stem cells (NSCs) can potentially be harnessed to overcome these obstacles and significantly improve cancer immunotherapy. Intravenously-delivered NSCs preferentially migrate to primary and metastatic tumor sites within and outside the CNS. Therefore, we hypothesized that NSCs could serve as an ideal cellular delivery platform for targeting antibodies to malignant tumors.
Treatment strategies for the highly invasive brain tumor, glioblastoma multiforme, require that cells which have invaded into the surrounding brain be specifically targeted. The inherent tumor-tropism of neural stem cells (NSCs) to primary and invasive tumor foci can be exploited to deliver therapeutics to invasive brain tumor cells in humans. Use of the strategy of converting prodrug to drug via therapeutic transgenes delivered by immortalized therapeutic NSC lines have shown efficacy in animal models. Thus therapeutic NSCs are being proposed for use in human brain tumor clinical trials. In the context of NSC-based therapies, MRI can be used both to non-invasively follow dynamic spatio-temporal patterns of the NSC tumor targeting allowing for the optimization of treatment strategies and to assess efficacy of the therapy. Iron-labeling of cells allows their presence to be visualized and tracked by MRI. Thus we aimed to iron-label therapeutic NSCs without affecting their cellular physiology using a method likely to gain United States Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approval.
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most aggressive type of malignant primary brain tumors in adults. Molecular and genetic analysis has advanced our understanding of glioma biology, however mapping the cellular composition of the tumor microenvironment is crucial for understanding the pathology of this dreaded brain cancer. In this study we identified major cell populations attracted by glioma using orthotopic rodent models of human glioma xenografts. Marker-specific, anatomical and morphological analyses revealed a robust influx of host cells into the main tumor bed and tumor satellites.
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