The New England Journal of Medicine today relays some encouraging treatment findings about a typically fatal disease, advanced kidney cancer. Indeed, a recent phase I/II study revealed that blood stem cell transplants from healthy siblings may prove far more effective than current first-line treatments. Richard Childs of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and his colleagues offered the stem cell intervention to 19 patients with treatment-resistant metastatic renal cell carcinoma. They discovered that the majority saw substantial regressions in widespread tumors, and a few actually remained cancer-free more than two years after the treatment.
Stem cells, harvested from bone marrow, blood and umbilical cord, have shown promise doing battle against several types of solid tumors. These cells are the progenitors of all other blood cells, including immune cells capable of attacking tumors. Although Childs describes his new results as sometimes "dramatic" and "remarkable," he cautions that the procedure does not come without the threat of significant complications. Also, several subjects who showed an initial response to therapy have since developed progressive disease. For now, he says, "It should remain an investigational approach to treating kidney cancer."