Biological mechanism allows brain cancer cells to hide from drugs

Washington: A new research has discovered a biological mechanism that allows brain tumor cells to escape from the drugs designed to target them, resulting in drug resistance.

Researchers from UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center said that ' Glioblastoma' is the most common and deadliest form of brain cancer and drugs have been designed to find and kill those cells by targeting telltale mutations on the cell surface that accelerate tumor growth.

The team led by first author David Nathanson, assistant professor of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology, and former UCLA professor Paul Mischel found that the tumor cells are able to eliminate the gene mutation, essentially removing the target while the drug is present and allowing the tumor to become drug resistant.

The research also found that after the drug is removed, the tumor cells reacquire the gene mutation that helps the tumor cells grow more robustly.

Thus, they discovered that tumor cells can eliminate the oncogene identified by drugs that specifically target them, and regain the oncogene, which makes them vulnerable to the original therapy, after treatment is stopped.

This discovery is potentially applicable to other cancers that are susceptible to oncogene elimination and could lead to different and more effective approaches to treat these cancers.

The study was published in the December 5, 2013 online issue of Science.