Using stem cells to treat brain cancer: pilot study highlights potential new approach

August 16, 2018

Dr. Ian LorimerStem cells are usually associated with repairing damaged tissue and treating degenerative diseases, but they also have a unique property that may be harnessed to fight cancer. When injected into the body, stem cells naturally migrate to tumours, and can therefore be used as a vehicle to deliver cancer-killing drugs, genes or proteins. Dr. Ian Lorimer and his team are applying this technique to brain cancer using a protein called PTEN. This tumour-suppressing protein is often lost in brain cancer cells. Dr. Lorimer and his team created neural stem cells that make a new version of PTEN, which is secreted and taken up by neighbouring brain cancer cells. Pilot lab experiments suggest that this new PTEN is active in brain cancer cells and can block their cancerous properties. This approach is particularly promising because patient-specific neural stem cells could integrate into the tumour and deliver the therapy continuously. See Molecular Therapy Methods & Clinical Development for details.

Authors: Lavictoire SJ, Gont A, Julian LM, Stanford WL, Vlasschaert C, Gray DA, Jomaa D, Lorimer IAJ.

Core Facilities: Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Facility

Quote: “Brain cancer is one of the most difficult cancers to treat, so we need to explore radical new approaches,” said Dr. Lorimer, senior scientist and deputy director of cancer research at The Ottawa Hospital and associate professor at the University of Ottawa. “With our expertise in biological therapies involving stem cells, viruses and genes, The Ottawa Hospital is up to the challenge.”

Funders: Dr. Lorimer’s research is possible because of generous donations to cancer research at The Ottawa Hospital. This project was also supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Heart and Stroke Foundation Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery, the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine and the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation. Dr. Lorimer holds the J. Adrien & Eileen Leger Chair in Cancer Research at The Ottawa Hospital.

The Ottawa Hospital: Inspired by research. Driven by compassion 

The Ottawa Hospital is one of Canada’s largest learning and research hospitals with over 1,100 beds, approximately 12,000 staff and an annual budget of over $1.2 billion. Our focus on research and learning helps us develop new and innovative ways to treat patients and improve care. As a multi-campus hospital, affiliated with the University of Ottawa, we deliver specialized care to the Eastern Ontario region, but our techniques and research discoveries are adopted around the world. We engage the community at all levels to support our vision for better patient care. See for more information about research at The Ottawa Hospital.

University of Ottawa: —A crossroads of cultures and ideas

The University of Ottawa is home to over 50,000 students, faculty and staff, who live, work and study in both French and English. Our campus is a crossroads of cultures and ideas, where bold minds come together to inspire game-changing ideas. We are one of Canada’s top 10 research universities—our professors and researchers explore new approaches to today’s challenges. One of a handful of Canadian universities ranked among the top 200 in the world, we attract exceptional thinkers and welcome diverse perspectives from across the globe.

Media Contact

Jennifer Ganton
Director, Communications and Public Relations
Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
Office: 613-798-5555 x 73325
Cell: 613-614-5253