New drug breakthrough brings brain cancer cure closer to reality
Washington – Scientists have identified a mechanism that can help treat brain cancer and a drug that decreases brain tumour growth.
The researchers at the University of Calgary’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI) have made a discovery that could lead to better treatment for patients suffering from brain cancer.
HBI member V. Wee Yong, PhD and research associate Susobhan Sarkar, PhD, and their team including researchers from the Department of Clinical Neurosciences and the university’s Southern Alberta Cancer Research Institute, looked at human brain tumour samples and discovered that specialized immune cells in brain tumour patients are compromised.
The researchers took this discovery and, in an animal model, identified a drug that is able to re-activate those immune cells and reduce brain tumour growth, thereby increasing the lifespan of mice two to three times.
Our brains normally contain specialized cells, called microglia, that defend against injury or infection. “Microglia are the brain’s own dedicated immune system,” explains Yong. “And in this study, we have formally demonstrated for the first time that these cells are compromised in living brain tumour patients.”
As with other forms of cancer, brain tumours start as individual stem-like cells – called brain tumour initiating cells (BTICs). These cells quickly divide and grow, eventually forming a mass, or tumour. Yong and his team have discovered that the tumour disables microglia, permitting the rapid proliferation of BTICs, which ultimately leads to brain tumour growth.
In addition to discovering this mechanism, Yong and Sarkar also identified a drug – amphotericin B (AmpB) – to reactivate microglia that in an animal model, showed a significant reduction in brain tumour growth.
The study was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.