Patients with a glioblastoma generally undergo surgery as quickly as possible. While most of the brain tumour can often be removed surgically, in virtually every case the tumour reappears. One reason for this is that sporadic, infiltrative tumour cells will remain in the brain even after most careful surgery.
Researchers have now subjected these 'forgotten' cells to closer scrutiny for the first time. While doing this, they were able to show that many of the fundamental properties of these tumour cells were substantially different from the cells in the midst of the tumour mass. The findings could offer an opportunity to explain why radiation or chemotherapy cannot entirely prevent this deadly disease to reoccur.
The scientists have taken a closer look at these residual cells. Apart from being provided with samples from the main mass of the tumour for their research, the scientists were also provided with small diagnostic samples from adjacent tissue from 33 patients. 'From the small samples we then extracted and enriched the few tumour cells that would have normally remained in the patient.' Björn Scheffler from the Institute of Reconstructive Neurobiology of the University of Bonn explains.
While examining these residual cells, the researchers made their discovery. The cancer cells in the vicinity of the tumour have different properties compared to those from the centre of the tumour. They are more mobile, form other receptors and react differently to radiation therapy or chemotherapeutic substances.
These findings may offer an intriguing explanation for the yet meagre therapeutic success against the most frequent malignant brain cancer. The new results could help medicine to upgrade its weapons arsenal against the remaining cancer cells.
Up to now, therapies were only tested on the extracted tumour tissue. But even if medication could destroy the actual tumour, this does not have to be true for the malignant residual cells. But at the same time the researchers warn against exaggerated hopes. Scheffler says: 'We still have a lot of work to do.'
MEDICA.de; Source: University of Bonn