Scientists find clue to treat deadly brain tumour

By blocking the GBM cell pathway, tumour growth can be reduced.

Washington: A team of scientists has discovered that the deadliness of a brain tumour could be its weakness as well.

The team of researchers at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research (LICR) at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, found a new signalling pathway between GBM cells – one that, if ultimately blocked or disrupted, could significantly slow or reduce tumour growth and malignancy.

GBM or glioblastoma multiforme is the most aggressive form of malignant glioma - most common subtype of primary brain tumour.

GBMs have cell subtypes featuring great genetic variation – rendering them immune to anti cancer therapies that tend to be less effective against such tumour heterogeneity.

The team noted that in GBMs only a minority of tumour cells possess a mutant form of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene. These cells drive the tumour’s rapid, deadly growth.

"The mutant cells are instructing other less malignant tumour cells to become more malignant," said Frank Furnari.

"If we can inhibit or block this cellular communication, the tumour does not grow as quickly and may be more treatable," he said.

"We need to look at how they communicate. Historically, brain tumour research has focused upon the most abundantly expressed mutations, but this research suggests minority mutations play very important roles as well," Furnari added.

The researchers`` next step will be to create a mouse model with mixed cell glioblastoma that can be used to test different therapeutics, inhibitors and blocking agents.

The study has been published in the August 15 issue of Genes & Development.


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