According to a story from news-medical.net, a group of scientists from the Cincinnati Children’s Cancer and Blood Diseases Institute have recently published a study in the journal Nature Cell Biology. This research highlights a viable treatment approach for deadly brain cancer, such as glioblastoma. However, the scientists also emphasize the fact that no drug is in development that utilizes this molecular pathway. Therefore, while it appears, promising, there have been no trials that have actually tested it.
Glioblastoma is a highly aggressive cancer that originates in the brain. What causes glioblastoma is not entirely clear, but some risk factors include prior radiation therapy, tuberous sclerosis, Turcot syndrome, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, and neurofibromatosis. Others include smoking, pesticides, a career in rubber manufacture or petroleum refining, and exposure to certain viruses (cytomegalovirus, SV40, HHV-6). Symptoms include personality changes, stroke-like symptoms, headache, and nausea; it can eventually cause loss of consciousness. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery are all commonly used in treatment, but they are often ineffective in treating glioblastoma, which can recur very rapidly. Five year survival rate is only about three percent, with most patients dying in a little over a year, even with maximum treatment. To learn more about glioblastoma, click here.
About the Study
The research focuses on the role of a protein called AMP-activate protein kinase (AMPK). AMPK is important in regulating the metabolism of cells, and data from this study suggests that it can help perpetuate the growth of many of the most difficult to treat brain cancers like glioblastoma. The scientists believe that this information means that an AMPK blocking drug could be a new treatment approach for shutting down glioblastoma.
This study could come across as controversial in the field because AMPK has often been seen as beneficial in suppressing cancer. This is because AMPK can inhibit other enzymes that are known to precipitate cancer growth. However, this does not appear to be the case for brain cancers like glioblastoma; these tumors actually express high levels of AMPK.
In a mouse model, shutting off AMPK could shrink brain tumors and prolong survival in mice. In fact, getting rid of AMPK entirely from these mice appeared to be entirely safe for them.
Unfortunately, it will probably be a while before an AMPK drug is trialled in human patients; more research will have to be conducted in order to confirm that the data could have substantive benefits.