LA JOLLA, Calif., September 25 2013 A new experimental approach to treating a type of brain cancer called medulloblastoma has been developed by researchers at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham). The method targets cancer stem cellsthe cells that are critical for maintaining tumor growthand halts their ability to proliferate by inhibiting enzymes that are essential for tumor progression. The process destroys the ability of the cancer cells to grow and divide, paving the way for a new type of treatment for patients with this disease.
The research team, led by Robert Wechsler-Reya, Ph.D., professor in Sanford-Burnham's NCI-Designated Cancer Center and director of the Tumor Initiation and Maintenance Program, discovered that the medulloblastoma cancer cells responsible for tumor growth and progression (called cancer stem cells or tumor-propagating cellsTPCs) divide more quickly than normal cells. Correspondingly, they have higher levels of certain enzymes that regulate the cell cycle (Aurora and Polo-like kinases). By using small-molecule inhibitors to stop the action of these enzymes, the researchers were able to block the growth of tumor cells from mice as well as humans. The research findings are described in an online paper published September 25 by Cancer Research.
"One tumor can have many different types of cells in it, and they can grow at different rates. By targeting fast-growing TPCs with cell-cycle inhibitors, we have developed a new route to assault medulloblastoma. In this study, we have shown that cell-cycle inhibitors essentially block medulloblastoma tumor progression by halting TPC expansion, and have opened the window to preventing cancer recurrence," said Wechsler-Reya.
For their research, the scientists tested the effectiveness of cell-cycle inhibitors in a specific type of brain cancer called Sonic Hedgehog (SHH)-associated medulloblastoma. These cancers have mutations in components o
|Contact: Susan Gammon, Ph.D.|
Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute