New Delhi: Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center have made a groundbreaking discovery that could revolutionize the treatment of cancerous brain tumours.
A study, published in the esteemed science journal “Nature,” reveals that cancerous cells in the brain form connections with healthy brain cells, leading to hyperactivity and accelerated cognitive decline, ultimately resulting in patient mortality, newswire PTI reported.
Led by Saritha Krishna, an Indian scientist, the team also found that an anti-seizure drug commonly used in medical practice effectively reduces the hyperactivity of tumor cells, stalling their growth. This discovery opens up new possibilities for the treatment of brain tumors.
The study highlights the significance of communication between healthy brain cells and cancerous cells, suggesting that by manipulating this interaction, the growth of tumors can be slowed down or halted altogether. Patients suffering from glioblastoma, the most lethal form of adult brain cancer, stand to benefit the most from these findings.
During awake-brain tumor surgeries, the team, including Ms. Krishna and fellow scientist Shawn Hervey-Jumper, made an unexpected observation. While patients performed language tasks, brain regions infiltrated by tumors, which were previously thought to be unrelated, exhibited activation alongside the language-related brain areas. This revelation indicated that malignant cancer cells have the ability to rewire and intensify connections in the surrounding brain tissue, accelerating cognitive decline and shortening patient survival.
Extensive biological characterization of these connected tumor cells was conducted using brain organoids derived from human stem cells and mouse models implanted with human glioblastoma cells. These experiments unveiled the role of a protein called “thrombospondin-1” in neuronal hyperexcitability and demonstrated that gabapentin, a commonly prescribed anti-seizure medication, successfully reduced hyperexcitability and halted further tumor growth.
The implications of this discovery are significant for the development of more effective treatment approaches for glioblastoma, a highly fatal disease. In addition to its known anti-seizure properties, gabapentin’s newly discovered anti-tumor effect in mouse models highlights its potential for repurposing as a targeted therapy to inhibit tumor growth.
Furthermore, understanding how cancer cells hijack brain circuitry will pave the way for the development of drugs and neuromodulation techniques that can sever the neuronal connections with brain cancer cells, effectively halting tumor growth. Non-invasive brain modulation techniques, commonly used in epilepsy and psychiatric treatments, could be explored in clinical trials for glioma patients to suppress tumor activity, according to Saritha.
The research team’s groundbreaking findings hold promise for advancing therapeutic drug development and improving outcomes for patients with malignant glioma.
(With agency inputs)