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Scientists reach a breakthrough in brain tumor research

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Posted July 8, 2016

Lately world has faced many optimistic and hope-inspiring news about cancer research. And it looks like scientists are working in all fields in order to understand processes behind this disease and to deliver effective treatment sooner. Now scientists from the Newcastle University have made a significant breakthrough in brain cancer research.

Glioma is hard to treat and prognosis is usually poor. But scientists hope to develop a new more effective treatment now that they know its progression mechanisms. Image credit: James Heilman, MD via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Glioma is hard to treat and prognosis is usually poor. But scientists hope to develop a new more effective treatment now that they know its progression mechanisms. Image credit: James Heilman, MD via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Obviously, in order to treat cancer effectively science has to know the mechanisms behind the progression of this disease. This is what makes this discovery so important – scientists managed to reach a breakthrough in the understanding of how a fatal brain tumor grows and eventually it may lead to improvements in therapies.

In simple words, experts of the field discovered that glioma (malignant brain tumor) cells actually rely on fats in order to grow. Previously it was believed that this role is performed by sugars. Glioma is one of the hardest cancers to treat and is the most common form of malignant brain tumor in adults.

Scientists used actual brain tumor tissue samples and mouse models in this research. Brain cells of mice were modified in order to develop cancer and then were implanted into other mice models for scientists to observe progression of the cancer. It took a lot of work and extensive effort, but results are already being described as pioneering breakthrough, because usually patients of glioma receive poor prognosis.

Dr Elizabeth Stoll, lead author of the study, described the achievement: “Interestingly, we have discovered that malignant glioma cells have a completely different metabolic strategy as they actually prefer to break down fats to make energy. Our finding provides a new understanding of brain tumor biology, and a new potential drug target for fighting this type of cancer”.

This knowledge allows scientists thinking of ways to block this cancer progression mechanism. They are already testing a drug called “etomoxir”, which is used to prevent cells from using fatty acids to produce energy. Later more drugs may be added to the study as well, but as so far scientists want to stress that study does not take diet into consideration. Animal model tests already showed that etomoxir can prolong median survival time of glioma patients by 17%.

Science news nowadays are filled with hopeful news about future of cancer treatment. However, even in this context this breakthrough is quite significant. Knowing a new drug target should accelerate development of a new drug therapy to previously unseen speed.

Source: ncl.ac.uk

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