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Promising development in treatment for glioblastoma multiforme

Friday October 22nd 2021

A major advance in brain tumour research could pave the way for personalised treatment for the most deadly form of the disease, British scientists say.

A team at the Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence at Queen Mary University of London, which established a new experimental research pipeline with 10 patients, has revealed new observations into how glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) develops.

Combining laboratory work and analytical computer programmes, the team was able to compare normal and malignant cells from the same patient, thereby helping to identify the genes that play a role in the tumour growth.

Writing in the latest edition of Nature Communications, the scientists say they hope it will identify potential new targets for individualised treatments and could also help predict a patient’s response to drugs currently in clinical use for other diseases.

Team leader Professor Silvia Marino said: “We have used this powerful technique to identify changes in the function of genes that occur in GBM that do not entail a change in the genetic code (epigenetics). This has revealed new insights for how GBM develops and identified potential new targets for individualised treatments.”

GBM is the most common malignant brain tumour in adults, which spreads extensively into surrounding brain tissue, making complete removal by surgery almost impossible. It is also extremely resistant to radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

Hugh Adams, spokesman for Brain Tumour Research, which funded the study, said: “The complex nature of this particular tumour type means that the standard of care for these patients has not changed in a generation, so this research brings much-needed hope for the future.

“One of the main challenges in developing effective treatments for GBM is that the tumour exhibits significant variation between patients and there can even be significant variation within a single patient’s tumour. These variations can arise from change to the cell’s genetic code – known as mutations – combined with changes to how specific genes are controlled.

“There is strong evidence that GBM cells develop from neural stem cells, but previous studies have not been able to compare tumour cells and their putative cell of origin from the same person. Prof Marino and her team have now harnessed state-of-the-art stem cell technologies and next-generation DNA sequencing methods to compare diseased and healthy cells from the same patient. Their results have shown how this approach can reveal novel molecular events that appear to go awry when GBM develops, thereby identifying targets for potentially new treatments.”

Comparative epigenetic analysis of tumour initiating cells and syngeneic EPSC-derived neural stem cells in glioblastoma. Nature Communications 21 October 2021; doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-26297-6

Tags: Brain & Neurology | Cancer | UK News

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