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Barrow Study Identifies Therapeutic Opportunities for Glioblastoma

A recent study from Barrow Neurological Institute could lead to new targeted therapies for people with glioblastoma, which among adults is the deadliest and most common of the tumors that originate in the brain.

In the United States, an estimated 9,000 people are diagnosed each year with this highly aggressive brain tumor.

The current standard of care for most people with glioblastoma is to surgically remove as much of the tumor as possible, followed by radiation therapy and chemotherapy. However, almost all patients experience tumor recurrence after treatment and there is currently no standard of care for recurrent glioblastoma.

The median survival time after diagnosis is about nine to 14 months, a prognosis that has not changed significantly over the last decade.

photo of barrow brain tumor researcher shwetal mehta

Shwetal Mehta, PhD
Associate Professor of Neurobiology

“One of the challenges with the treatment of glioblastoma is that the invasive cells often migrate beyond surgically resected regions in to the normal brain and escape surgical removal,” said Shwetal Mehta, PhD, an assistant professor of neurobiology at Barrow. “These invasive cells are resistant to adjuvant therapies, lead to tumor recurrence, and contribute to poor survival.”

Dr. Mehta said scientists currently have little knowledge of the mechanisms that drive the tumor cells to become invasive.

In glioblastoma, proliferation and invasion are presumed to be mutually exclusive events, meaning they do not occur at the same time. Proliferative cells are capable of dividing and are fast growing, but they are slow moving. Invasive cells are slow growing but highly motile. Dr. Mehta said past literature suggests that glioblastoma cells switch between the proliferative and invasive states.

The research from Mehta’s Laboratory of Glial Tumor Biology, which was recently published in Cell Reports, identified a mechanism that allows tumor cells to switch between growing and migrating.

“Our work describes how different forms of a single protein (Olig2) within glioblastoma cells can switch tumor cells from being fast growers to fast movers,” Dr. Mehta said. “Olig2 promotes both tumor growth and the migration of tumor cells in the normal brain.”

Dr. Mehta said most existing therapies are targeted toward the proliferating cells rather than the invading cells.

“Our study not only provides a mechanistic insight into how tumor cells switch between growing and migrating, but also offers therapeutic opportunities for blocking both tumor growth and invasion,” Dr. Mehta said.

Read the full article here: Post-translational modifications of OLIG2 regulate glioma invasion through the TGF-ß pathway

About Barrow Neurological Institute

Since our doors opened as a regional specialty center in 1962, we have grown into one of the premier destinations in the world for neurology and neurosurgery. Our experienced, highly skilled, and comprehensive team of neurological specialists can provide you with a complete spectrum of care–from diagnosis through outpatient neurorehabilitation–under one roof. Barrow Neurological Institute: Discover. Educate. Heal.