New treatment could extend the lives of brain tumor patients
Scientists have discovered a new treatment regimen that could potentially extend the lives of people with the deadliest type of brain tumour.
A breakthrough research from a team at Imperial College London is using a drug to deplete the amino acid arginine, making glioblastoma (GBM) tumors much more susceptible to radiation therapy.
Radiation therapy is being used to shrink tumours, raising hopes that the method could keep brain tumors at bay for much longer than at present.
GMB is the type of brain tumor that claimed the life of Dame Tessa Jowell, the former Labor MP and Culture Secretary who died in 2018.
Less than 1% of patients with GBM currently live longer than 10 years, and for many the prognosis is only 12 months.
The new study, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, was funded by the charity Brain Tumor Research and experts hope it will lead to a clinical trial in patients.
Arginine is known to be used by a variety of cancer cells to fuel their growth and 70% of GBM tumors are able to manufacture arginine.
In the lab study, the researchers exposed these GMB tumors to a drug called ADI-PEG20.
The drug degrades arginine and the goal was to deprive tumors of it.
Through this deprivation, nitric oxide levels are increased, which helps activate immune cells around the tumor.
Experts have found that the method has the greatest effect when the drug is used with ionizing radiation.
Dr Nel Syed, who co-leads the team at the Center of Excellence for Brain Tumor Research at Imperial College London, said: “Arginine is a vital nutrient for tumor growth and our results show that reduction in its supply makes tumors much more sensitive to radiation therapy.
“Removal of arginine suppresses tumor immunosuppression and we found that our approach meant that immune cells around the tumor were more likely to attack and eliminate tumor cells.”
Dr Karen Noble, Director of Research, Policy and Innovation at Brain Tumor Research, said: “This is an important and exciting finding.
“There is an urgent need for new approaches to treat GBM, which in the majority of cases is fatal.
“There have been no improvements in treatment options for this type of tumor in two decades.”
The team is now exploring how the drug can be used in the 30% of GMB tumors that are unable to produce arginine.
Oscar Kirby-Hogarty, 29, from Wandsworth, south London, whose mother Lesley died of GBM in 2019, said: ‘When my mum was diagnosed with grade 4 GBM, I couldn’t imagine that at that time, with all the medical expertise we have, his prognosis was so grim.
“Everyone always thinks cancer is something that happens to other people. I did too. For this to happen to us and for it to be such an incurable form of cancer was truly unfair.
Oscar and his brother Tobi raised money for brain tumor research.
He added: “Hearing that these developments are happening makes me really happy.
“Knowing that the work my brother Tobi and I have done to raise funds and support this cause means that my mother’s legacy lives on, despite this cruel and blind disease.”