Brain tumor treatments begin with mice experiments, but the latest research has scientists spellbound over its results, including for DIPG – a terminal brain cancer that almost always strikes children.
Busting Past the Blood Brain Barrier
The study was done on mice, and the next step is to begin clinical testing in children.
The research comes from the Cincinnati Children’s Cancer and Blood Diseases Institute.
The small molecule 6-thio-2’deoxyguanosine (6-thio-dG) in brain cancer stem cells was derived from tumor cells that were donated by patients.
The treatment was done on mice who had brain tumors modeled after kids’ brain cancer including DIPG.
The breakthrough is that the therapy crossed the blood brain barrier in the mice. In humans, this naturally protective barrier (to keep dangerous pathogens out) prevents drug treatment from reaching the brain.
In the mice, the therapy damaged the DNA in the cancer cells, stopping or halting the growth of two types of pediatric brain cancer. dipg
Normal nearby cells were not affected. Even when treatment ended, the therapy continued working.
“These findings show that 6-thio-dG is a promising novel approach to treat therapy resistant pediatric brain tumors and they provide a rationale for clinical testing of this treatment in children with brain tumors,” explains Rachid Drissi, PhD, in the paper, and a senior study investigator in the Division of Oncology.
More research is needed to make sure that this therapy is safe. Thus, it will be some time before the treatment is given to patients with DIPG or other treatment resistant brain tumors.
How Might the Treatment Destroy DIPG?
After crossing the blood brain barrier, the compound causes significant damage to the DNA of cancer cells and also cancer stem cells. dipg
All chromosomes are bound at their ends by structures called telomeres. Every time a normal cell divides, the telomeres shorten. dipg
Somehow, in ways still not thoroughly understood, the shortening of telomeres is connected to the longevity of the cell.
Old, aged cells have very short telomeres, while young healthy cells have long telomeres.
The telomeres of cancer cells never shorten with each cell division! Cancer researchers believe that triggering a shortening of these telomeres will end a cancer cell’s life.
The 6-thio-dG trips up the function of telomeres in the brain tumor cells – ending the immortality of the cancer cells.
The journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics (April 2018) has the full report.