0705 GMT September 17, 2019
The ability of many brain tumors to regenerate can be traced to cancer stem cells that evade treatment and spur the growth of new tumor cells. But some brain tumor stem cells may have an achilles' heel, scientists have found.
The cancer stem cells' remarkable abilities have to be maintained, and researchers at Washington university school of medicine in St. Louis have identified a key player in that maintenance process. When the process is disrupted, they found, so is the spread of cancer, esciencenews.com said.
"This discovery may help us attack the root of some of the deadliest brain tumors," said senior author Albert H. Kim, MD, PhD, assistant professor of neurological surgery. "A successful brain cancer treatment will very likely require blocking the tumor stem cells' ability to survive and replenish themselves."
Kim studies glioblastoma, a deadly form of brain cancer that each year strikes about 18,000 people in the united states. The average length of survival after diagnosis is 15 months, and only 30 percent of patients survive more than two years.
Scientists have realized in recent years that some cancer cells in glioblastomas and other tumors are more resistant to treatment than others. Those same, more defiant cells also are much better at re-establishing cancer after treatment.
"These tumor stem cells are really the kingpins of cancers — the cells that direct and drive much of the harm done by tumors," Kim said.
kim and his colleagues identified a protein, known as sox2, that is active in brain tumor stem cells and in healthy stem cells in other parts of the body.
the researchers found that the tumor stem cells' ability to make sox2 could be turned up or down via another protein, cdc20. increasing sox2 by boosting levels of cdc20 also increased a tumor's ability to grow once transplanted into mice. eliminating cdc20, meanwhile, left tumor stem cells unable to make sox2, reducing the tumor stem cells' ability to form tumors.