Scientists have developed a drug that destroys the deadliest brain tumors. It passes through the blood-brain barrier that protects neurons from foreign invaders – wiping out cancerous cells. Experiments in mice found the small molecule killed all cancer cells — leaving healthy tissue alone.
The drug works in combination with chemotherapy. Tumors quickly returned in peers given only the latter and spread rapidly.
Improved therapies are urgently needed for glioblastomas, which are often incurable. The breakthrough has potential implications for other aggressive cancers.
“These are the first clear results with brain tumors that can lead to a treatment which completely avoids surgery and radiation” said lead author Professor Leif Eriksson, of Gothenburg University, Sweden, said.
“We have also begun studying the use of our substance on other aggressive tumor forms like pancreatic cancer, triple-negative breast cancer and certain liver cancers,” he added.
Approximately 14,000 cases of glioblastoma are diagnosed each year in the United States. According to the federal government, about 15% of patients survive 5 years. ..
The drug, named Z4P, blocks a mechanism that fuels the tumor’s protein production, causing cells to die of stress.
Cancer cells, especially those that form aggressive tumors, are out of control. To manage this pressure they hijack healthy cells.
“We have now succeeded in stopping this by inserting a specially developed molecule in the cells that inhibits one of these hijacked adaptive mechanisms in the cancer cells. This causes the cancer to self-destruct,” Eriksson said.
Advanced simulations on supercomputers came up with a version that got the drug through the blood-brain barrier that prevents uptake of most pharmaceuticals.
The technique described in iScience does not apply to other forms of brain cancer because they develop differently.
Current treatments for brain tumors often have severe side effects. None were identified in Z4P.
The treated animals maintained weight, had no apparent changes in behavior and there was no sign of an impact on the liver.
Extensive lab tests on cells have shown the substance is non-toxic — even at very high doses.
Eriksson and colleagues are now optimizing the treatment procedure and planning additional animal studies.
But they are confident it should be able to arrive relatively quickly into clinical treatment.
“If I’m optimistic, perhaps it might take five years” Eriksson said. “That’s a short timeframe, but at the same time glioblastomas are nearly 100 percent fatal, so any improvement in medical care is major progress.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
Edited by Alberto Arellano and Sterling Creighton Beard