Dr Megan Chircop and her team have found new compounds that can target the deadliest type of malignant brain tumour, glioblastoma multiforme. Their work has shown that the compounds successfully target and kill cancer cells, preventing them from spreading. This work could form the basis of new brain cancer treatment.
Glioblastoma multiforme is the most common type of malignant brain tumour. It affects about 1,600 Australians each year and is the most common cause of cancer death in 30-40 year olds. Its impact is disproportionately high in comparison to other cancers, as people at that age often have work obligations and young children to look after.
Glioblastomas are highly aggressive tumours, characterised by extensive spread through the surrounding brain tissue. This makes surgical removal difficult and even after chemotherapy the cancer often lingers. Up to 90% of patients experience recurrence due to particular cells that are resistant to current therapies.
Dr Chircop and her team have found compounds, called dynII inhibitors, that can successfully target glioblastoma tumours. These promising molecules could be developed into a new type of brain cancer drug that is 10 times more effective than currently available treatments.
The compounds have already been shown to reduce glioblastoma tumour size in mice by more than 75%.
Dr Chircop’s team found the compounds are more potent at killing glioblastoma cells than current available treatments, especially those cells that make the tumours resistant to therapy.
The compounds are also able to block the invasion of cancer cells in the brain.
The results are promising and the research team is now working to advance its research of the compounds so that ultimately they can be tested in clinical trials with cancer patients.
Despite medical advances over the past 25 years, glioblastoma remains notoriously difficult to treat, and there are no dedicated drugs that can target it specifically. The research team has been the first to identify new compounds that can reduce glioblastoma growth. Knowledge on how the compounds work on brain cancer cells will let researchers identify which patients would benefit from the new treatment based on the specifics of their tumour.
This will allow for personalised treatment, ultimately extending and improving the quality of life of brain cancer patients. In addition, the researchers believe that targeting cancer cell division with the newly identified compounds could prove to be a useful strategy in other types of tumours.
Dr Megan Chircop The University of Sydney
Professor Adam McCluskey Dr Nigel Charles Jones Dr Jennette Sakoff Dr Giovanna D’Abaco