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A crystal ball for brain cancer?
Date:8/16/2009

is colleagues focused on glioblastoma, the most common and deadly form of adult brain tumor, striking 12,000 Americans a year. Despite therapy with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, the average glioblastoma patient lives only 12 to 15 months after diagnosis.

Survival rates drop even lower if the tumor returns. Conventional therapies produce little benefit; only 8 to 15 percent of patients survive without tumor growth six months after treatment.

The UCLA team studied 82 patients who had undergone surgery and radiation therapy to remove glioblastoma. Half of the patients received infusions of Avastin every two weeks. All underwent monthly brain scans by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to monitor change.

The researchers analyzed the MRI scans of the patients whose tumors returned. Explaining what the team saw requires an understanding of how the tumor creates an independent blood supply.

Cancer cells secrete a growth factor called VEGF that spurs the growth of new blood vessels to supply the tumor with oxygen and nutrients. Avastin blocks VEGF, essentially starving the tumor to death.

This process launches a chain of events that is detectable by MRI. Oxygen-starved cells produce more VEGF, which causes blood vessels to leak fluids into the tumor and surrounding tissue. This results in swelling, which boosts water's ability to move freely in the tumor and brain tissue. As cells disintegrate, they no longer pose a physical barrier to water movement.

"We theorized that tumors with more water motion would also have higher VEGF levels," explained Pope. "Because Avastin targets VEGF, it made sense that the drug would work better in tumors with high levels of the growth factor."

By measuring the amount of water motion within the tumor, the researchers were able to predict with 70 percent accuracy which patients' tumors would progress within six months and which would not. They detected grea
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Contact: Elaine Schmidt
eschmidt@mednet.ucla.edu
310-794-2272
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert  

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