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To combat deadly brain cancer, target the stem cells
Date:7/7/2011

Researchers have uncovered a new target that could stop the growth of glioblastoma, a deadly form of brain cancer. In the July 8th issue of the journal Cell, a Cell Press publication, a new study identifies an enzyme found in glioma stem cells that allows them to grow and seed tumors. Importantly, normal stem cells, including those in the brain, don't appear to share that same dependency.

"When thinking about therapeutics [targeting cancer stem cells], you have to be careful that you aren't interfering with normal stem cells," said Christine Eyler of the Cleveland Clinic. "Glioma stem cells are not derived from normal stem cells but they do share many features with them. The trick to therapy is to find pathways exhibited only by cancer stem cells."

The goal of Eyler's team, led by Cleveland Clinic scientist Jeremy Rich, was to identify just such a pathway in glioma stem cells, a particularly devastating form of brain cancer. Despite modern surgical and medical therapies, those diagnosed with a glioblastoma have a median survival of just over a year.

Previous work identifying glioma cells with stem-cell like behavior and demonstrating the propagation of gliomas in animals offered hope for the development of anti-glioma therapeutics. The challenge, however, has been finding pathways that differ between glioma and normal stem cells in spite of evidence that the glioma stem cells closely resemble embryonic and neural stem cells.

Earlier studies led the researchers to investigate the pathway that produces nitric oxide (NO), a molecule thought to support tumors' growth and resistance to treatment. Those experiments showed that glioma cells express varying levels of nitric oxide synthases, critical enzymes in that pathway.

"It's important to note that there are different forms of nitric oxide synthases," said Anita Hjelmeland, also at the Cleveland Clinic. "We focused on one that is well restricted to glioma stem ce
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Contact: Elisabeth Lyons
elyons@cell.com
617-386-2121
Cell Press
Source:Eurekalert

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