Stem cells as therapeutic vehicles for the treatment of high-grade gliomas

Neuro Oncol. 2012 Mar;14(3):256-65. doi: 10.1093/neuonc/nor204. Epub 2011 Dec 13.


Stem cells have generated great interest in the past decade as potential tools for cell-based treatment of human high-grade gliomas. Thus far, 3 types of stem cells have been tested as vehicles for various therapeutic agents: embryonic, neural, and mesenchymal. The types of therapeutic approaches and/or agents examined in the context of stem cell-based delivery include cytokines, enzyme/prodrug suicide combinations, viral particles, matrix metalloproteinases, and antibodies. Each strategy has specific advantages and disadvantages. Irrespective of the source and/or type of stem cell, there are several areas of concern for their translation to the clinical setting, such as migration in the adult human brain, potential teratogenesis, immune rejection, and regulatory and ethical issues. Nonetheless, a clinical trial is under way using neural stem cell-based delivery of an enzyme/prodrug suicide combination for recurrent high-grade glioma. A proposed future direction could encompass the use of stem cells as vehicles for delivery of agents targeting glioma stem cells, which have been implicated in the resistance of high-grade glioma to treatment. Overall, stem cells are providing an unprecedented opportunity for cell-based approaches in the treatment of high-grade gliomas, which have a persistently dismal prognosis and mandate a continued search for therapeutic options.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Brain / virology
  • Brain Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Genetic Therapy
  • Glioma / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Neural Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Prodrugs / administration & dosage
  • Stem Cell Transplantation*
  • Stem Cells / metabolism


  • Cytokines
  • Prodrugs