A new video protocol in Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE) details an assay to identify brain tumor initiating stem cells from primary brain tumors. Through flow cytometry, scientists separate stem cells from the rest of the tumor, allowing quick and efficient analysis of target cells. This approach has been effectively used to identify similar stem cells in leukemia patients.
"Overall, these tumors are extremely rare, with only around one in 100,000 people being diagnosed with a primary brain cancer," Dr. Sheila Singh, co-author and neurosurgeon from McMaster University, explains. "However, these tumors are the second most common malignancy in the pediatric population, and are behind only leukemia as the cancer with the highest mortality rate."
This publication is significant because it allows scientists to identify, purify, and study brain tumor initiating cells rapidly and without sample loss. Because these stem cells allow scientists to grow films in a petri dish, they serve as an effective model of a tumor expanding in the brain of a patient. Though not all tumors are actively driven by a stem cell, they do drive the most aggressively expanding tumors that lead to a negative prognosis. Typically, the median survival for patients with these types of tumors is fifteen-months, and they are almost uniformly fatal. Currently there is no prospect for a cure.