Trojan-horse stem cells might offer an important new cancer therapy

There is a constant stream of news stories on new possible approaches to curing cancers.  Cancer research institutions love to see these.  They help to impress the funding sources.  But most of these press releases describe incremental progress on existing therapeutic approaches.  It is rare to see a news story on a basically new and promising way to control  or cure cancers.  I think such a news story may have appeared today.  (See ref and ref). 

The therapeutic concept is simple and based on two observations.  The first observation is that for some reason mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs which are normally found in bone marrow) circulating in the body seek out cancer cells.  I conjecture that this is because cancers excrete signaling molecules that cause the circulating MSCs to home in on them, a strategy cancers use to achieve rapid growth(ref). The second observation is that it is possible to attach a payload molecule to mesenchymal stem cells which cause them to kill cancer cells but not normal cells, a molecule called TRAIL (A TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand in case you wanted to know).  “TRAIL induces apoptosis via death receptors (DR4 and DR5) in a wide variety of tumor cells but not in normal cells(ref).”  

The new research involves genetically engineering mesenchymal stem cells to be “Trojan horses” carrying TRAIL.  The stem cells seek out cancer cells and the TRAIL kills them.  The approach is reported to work in-vitro for a number of different cancers and in-vivo in a mouse model of breast cancer.  “In culture, the stem cells caused lung, squamous, breast and cervical cancer cells to die (all p< 0.01), even at low stem cell/tumor cell ratios (1:16). In mice, the researchers showed that the stem cells could reduce the growth of subcutaneous breast tumors by approximately 80 percent (p< .0001). The stem cells could also be injected intravenously as therapy for mice with lung metastases and could eliminate lung metastases in 38 percent of mice compared to control mice, all of which still had metastases (p=0.03)(ref).”  

It will probably take a few years before this cancer therapy approach is tried out in humans but it sounds promising to me.  Unlike blunderbus chemotherapy approaches the approach would be highly targeted, first in that the treated stem cells specifically seek out cancer cells, and second in that the payload kills only cancer cells not normal ones. Result should be minimal collateral damage. Most likely a patient’s own mesenchymal stem cells would be used to avoid any problem of immune system rejection so the therapy would be minimally problematic or toxic for the patient. 

About Vince Giuliano

Being a follower, connoisseur, and interpreter of longevity research is my latest career, since 2007. I believe I am unique among the researchers and writers in the aging sciences community in one critical respect. That is, I personally practice the anti-aging interventions that I preach and that has kept me healthy, young, active and highly involved at my age, now 93. I am as productive as I was at age 45. I don’t know of anybody else active in that community in my age bracket. In particular, I have focused on the importance of controlling chronic inflammation for healthy aging, and have written a number of articles on that subject in this blog. In 2014, I created a dietary supplement to further this objective. In 2019, two family colleagues and I started up Synergy Bioherbals, a dietary supplement company that is now selling this product. In earlier reincarnations of my career. I was Founding Dean of a graduate school and a full University Professor at the State University of New York, a senior consultant working in a variety of fields at Arthur D. Little, Inc., Chief Scientist and C00 of Mirror Systems, a software company, and an international Internet consultant. I got off the ground with one of the earliest PhD's from Harvard in a field later to become known as computer science. Because there was no academic field of computer science at the time, to get through I had to qualify myself in hard sciences, so my studies focused heavily on quantum physics. In various ways I contributed to the Computer Revolution starting in the 1950s and the Internet Revolution starting in the late 1980s. I am now engaged in doing the same for The Longevity Revolution. I have published something like 200 books and papers as well as over 430 substantive.entries in this blog, and have enjoyed various periods of notoriety. If you do a Google search on Vincent E. Giuliano, most if not all of the entries on the first few pages that come up will be ones relating to me. I have a general writings site at and an extensive site of my art at Please note that I have recently changed my mailbox to
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3 Responses to Trojan-horse stem cells might offer an important new cancer therapy

  1. Res says:

    interesting new methodology.

    / conjecture that this is because cancers excrete signaling molecules that cause the circulating MSCs to home in on them, a strategy cancers use to achieve rapid growth(ref). /

    Does any of the firewall substance blocks the molecule signaling?

    Thanks Vince as always

  2. admin says:

    What a good question. It appears that curcumin, resveratrol and perhaps many of the other phyto-substances in the anti-cancer firewall work through the same mechanism as the TRAIL-loaded stem cells do. They induce differential apoptosis in cancer cells via TRAIL working on death receptors 4 and 5. See and
    In other words, taking these substances initiates the same death-creating biomolecular chain in cancer cells that the TRAIL-loaded stem cells do.

    As to your direct question about signaling, I don’t know the answer but would like to.

  3. Pingback: CAR adoptive stem cell immunotherapy– an emerging new weapons against cancers and other incurable diseases | AGING SCIENCES – Anti-Aging Firewalls

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