New therapeutic approach targeting brain cancer stem cells could lead to improved patient survival

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Scientists have successfully uncovered a therapeutic approach that targets aggressive brain tumour stem cells.

Although an initial course of chemotherapy may kill a large number of cells within a brain tumour, a small number of cancer cells may remain which are resistant to the drugs and have the potential to regrow in a more aggressive fashion. These include glioma stem cells which are also likely to survive subsequent therapies.

Therefore, after eliminating most of the tumour with standard therapies, even just one cancer stem cells left behind can give rise to an entirely new tumour which is much more difficult to treat. The development of new therapies to attack the tumour stem cells will be vital if we are to really move towards the development of an effective treatment for brain tumours.

In a new study carried out at the Dathmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, published in the scientific journal Oncogene, scientists have successfully identified a biochemical pathway that is essential for the survival of glioma stem cells within aggressive brain tumours. Understanding the mechanism by which these cells remain alive in the brain and knowing how to target them effectively is important for the development of more effective therapies.

The findings of the study can be useful in developing better approaches to treating high-grade brain tumours. The strategy of using drugs that kills cancer stem cells in combination with existing chemotherapy might ultimately prolong patients’ survival.

Research at our Research Centre of Excellence at Queen Mary University of London is also focused on understanding the role of tumour stem cells in the development of brain tumours and how we can identify potential therapeutic agents to be able to develop more effective therapies and ultimately lead to a cure for brain tumours.

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