Glioblastoma project IDs a new approach to brain cancer and understanding EGFR

Targeting brain tumor stem cells is one of the key focuses in glioblastoma research. Now investigators at the Moffitt Cancer Center say that they've identified a pathway that can be used to target these stem cells, adding to potential therapeutic strategies for the aggressive disease.

In a study published in the Feb. 6 issue of The Journal of Biological Chemistry, the Moffitt team notes that the neurotrophin pathway--involved in controlling nerve growth--is also a key survival pathway for these brain tumor stem cells, promoting their growth and aggressiveness.

According to the study, cellular signals from normal brain cells activate the neurotrophin receptors TrkB and TrkC on the stem cell, fostering their growth. When the researchers inhibited TrkB and TrkC, they reportedly found decreased stem cell survival that suggests that TrkB and TrkC may be possible drug targets for stem cells in gliomas and glioblastomas.

If they're right, this pathway could also explain why EGFR inhibitors in the clinic have failed to rein in glioblastoma, as these neurotrophin receptors may bypass EGFR inhibition and continue to push the cancer.

So far, this theory has yet to be tested in the clinic with TrkB and TrkC inhibitors, but the investigators are hopeful that it will be.

"This work might be a first step in developing new treatment approaches targeting brain tumor stem cells," said senior author Dr. Peter Forsyth, chair of the Department of Neuro-Oncology at Moffitt, in a statement. "It may also partly explain why brain tumors can grow so quickly since proteins from the surrounding normal brain might be used by the tumor to grow even faster."

- here's the release
- get the research abstract