Weekly pick of brain tumour research news from around the world

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A new study  finds niacin, commonly called vitamin B3, combined with chemotherapy can help immune cells attack glioblastoma dramatically slowing progression of the disease, in mice. "It is a remarkable result. While it's not a cure, it's a promising step forward against this incurable disease," said the principal investigator on the study.

When the brain gets injured, star-shaped brain cells called astrocytes come to the rescue. In the case of glioma this protective action comes at a price – seizures. A new study reveals that gliomas alter astrocyte function, which normally prevents the brain from being flooded with excess excitatory chemicals. This could contribute to the seizures experienced by many brain cancer patients. Essentially what is happening is that brain tumours impact normally helpful cells If we can understand what astrocytes do in the context of glioma maybe these overarching biological patterns will help us identify new diagnostics, therapies, and treatments to help patients.

Chemotherapy is uniquely challenging for brain tumour patients and this has plagued scientists for years, but could nanoparticles offer a solution? Nanoparticles, particles that are smaller than wavelengths of visible light and can only be seen under a special microscope, have the potential to pass through the blood-brain barrier. They can also carry drugs to targeted areas of the body, reducing the side effects on the rest of the body. But previous nanoparticles were very complex and not very efficient in penetrating in the brain. This most recent paper from a team of researchers for Yale School of Medicine and Beijing Normal University describes a small carbon nanoparticle engineered by the two labs that could both deliver chemotherapy drugs across the blood-brain barrier and mark tumour cells with fluorescence in mice. What’s more, this nanoparticle is incredibly simple—made up of only one single compound.

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