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Study Reports Progress Against Fatal Brain Cancer

In mice, researchers discover new way to prevent recurrence of glioblastoma

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 24 (HealthDay News) -- A new method to prevent recurrence of deadly glioblastoma brain cancer shows promise, say U.S. scientists.

Radiation can temporarily shrink a glioblastoma tumor, but the cancer nearly always recurs within weeks or months. Few people with this type of brain cancer survive more than two years after diagnosis.

In a study on mice, Stanford University School of Medicine researchers found that blocking access to oxygen and nutrients prevents tumor recurrence.

The first step, they said, was discovering that tumors blasted with radiation use a secondary pathway to generate blood vessels needed for regrowth.

"Under normal circumstances, this pathway is not important for growth of most tumors," senior author Martin Brown, a professor of radiology, said in a Stanford news release. "What we hadn't realized until recently is that radiation meant to kill the cancer cells also destroys the existing blood vessels that nourish the tumor. As a result, it has to rely on a backup blood delivery pathway."

The Stanford team used a molecule called AMD3100 to block the secondary glioblastoma tumor growth process in mice.

The study was published online Feb. 22 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

AMD3100 is already approved for different uses in humans so it's possible that clinical trials to test the molecule in glioblastoma patients could take place soon, according to the researchers. However, any routine use of AMD3100 or similar molecules to treat glioblastoma is likely still years away, they added.

In their study, the Stanford team focused on glioblastoma, but other tumors use a similar secondary blood delivery pathway to survive radiation treatment.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about brain tumors.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Stanford University, news release, Feb. 22, 2010

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