by: Kate Norman
Friday, 2 September 2022 | Israeli researchers from Tel Aviv University have discovered a method of targeting a type of brain cell to slow the growth of or completely cure glioblastoma, an aggressive form of cancer that targets the brain and spinal cord.
The research team developed a method that successfully eradicated glioblastoma in lab mice by essentially cutting off the energy supply of the tumors, thus “starving” them.
The researchers targeted astrocytes, star-shaped brain cells, which surround the tumors.
The astrocytes, they discovered, feed the tumor’s growth through two mechanisms: the astrocytes convert immune cells in the brain to switch from attacking the tumor to protecting it and helping it grow. The other mechanism occurs when the astrocytes provide the tumors with cholesterol, which provides them with the energy they need to continue quickly dividing and growing.
“We discovered that the astrocytes surrounding the tumor increase the production of cholesterol and supply it to the cancer cells,” Dr. Lior Mayo, supervising doctor of the research team, told the Jerusalem Post. “Therefore, we hypothesized that, because the tumor depends on this cholesterol as its main source of energy, eliminating this supply will starve the tumor.”
Their hypothesis produced very good results. The research team, made of Dr. Mayo supervising PhD student Rita Perelroizen, genetically produced mice with glioblastoma and then targeted the astrocytes surrounding the tumors, suppressing the cells from releasing cholesterol, effectively starving the tumors by cutting off their energy source.
“We found that when we did this, the tumors vanished and stayed away for as long as we repressed the astrocytes,” Dr. Mayo told the Times of Israel.
“In fact, even when we stopped suppressing the astrocytes, some 85% of the mice stayed in remission,” he added. “However, among the control group, in which all astrocytes remained, all mice died.”
The mice who did not receive the treatment died within four to five weeks, while those who did saw the tumors disappear in just a few days at a 100% survival rate, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Dr. Mayo of Tel Aviv University’s Shmunis School of Biomedicine and Cancer Research and the Sagol School of Neuroscience, supervised the study, which was led by PhD student Rita Perelroizen. They also collaborated with Prof. Eytan Ruppin of the US National Institutes of Healh (NIH), the Jerusalem Post reported.
Their study was published in the Brain scientific journal.
In addition to the mice, the Israeli research team also saw successful results in samples taken from human patients.
“For each patient, we examined the expression levels of genes that either neutralize the immune response or provide the tumor with a cholesterol-based energy supply,” the team wrote in their study. “We found that patients with low expression of these identified genes lived longer, thus supporting the concept that the genes and processes identified are important to the survival of glioblastoma patients.”
The next step, according to Dr. Mayo, is to either develop a new drug to target the astrocytes, or find an existing drug and repurpose it. If all goes well, Dr. Mayo said, this could happen within the next two years.
An estimated 10,000+ people in the United States alone die from glioblastoma every year, according to the Glioblastoma Research Organization. The aggressive illness also accounts for 48% of malignant brain tumors, and the average survival length is between 12 to 18 months, with just one patient in ten surviving for five years.
Posted on September 2, 2022
Source: (Bridges for Peace, September 2, 2022)
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