Radiotherapy resistant glioblastoma – could targeting natural process of cell destruction deliver better results?

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A study just published in the journal Cancer Cell, which was carried out at Northwestern University in Chicago, has provided novel insights into how glioblastoma cells may survive the effects of different therapies and has demonstrated that inhibition of this process could enhance the effects of radiation therapy and therefore overcome the development of resistance.

Previous research has suggested that a process called autophagy, which is a natural process of cell destruction, can also contribute to tumour survival and growth and is induced by some cancer treatments, thus rendering the cells resistant to therapies.

While there has been significant interest in inhibiting this survival mechanism, all of the approaches tested to date have been quite non-specific and have had significant detrimental side effects on other cell types.

In the recent study, the scientists sought to understand the molecular mechanisms regulating autophagy specifically in the cancer cells, which could reveal novel targets for future treatments.

"Our findings solidified the concept of the promoting role of autophagy in malignant glioblastoma, and point out the necessity of specifically targeting autophagy in combination with first-line treatments -- like radiation -- for glioblastoma and other tumours," said the study lead Dr. Cheng.

One of the primary themes for Brain Tumour Research is to identify new druggable targets by understanding how tumour cells develop. Studies such as this can help to increase our overall understanding of tumour cells and the changes that take place. We are working collaboratively to put the pieces of the jigsaw together and to ultimately develop cures for the many different types of brain tumours.  

Image credit: Professor Silvia Marino

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