Pharmacy researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have turned skin cells into cancer-hunting stem cells that destroy brain tumors— a first for medical science.

The stem cells destroyed glioblastoma, offering a new and more effective treatment for the disease for the first time in more than 30 years.

For patients with glioblastoma, the survival rate beyond two years is 30 percent because the brain tumors are so difficult to treat. The invasive, cancerous tendrils spread deeper into the brain— even if most of the tumor is removed— and inevitably grows back. According to a news release, most patients die within a year and a half of diagnosis.

“Patients desperately need a better standard of care,” study leader Shawn Hingtgen, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy and member of the Lineberger Comprehensive Care Center, said in a news release.

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