UAB researchers identify proteins that may help brain tumors spread

brain tumorsUAB scientists at the have identified a molecular pathway that seems to contribute to the ability of malignant glioma cells in a brain tumor to spread and invade previously healthy brain tissue. Researchers said the findings, published Sept. 19, 2013, in the journal PLOS ONE, provide new drug-discovery targets to rein in the ability of these cells to move.

Gliomas account for about a third of brain tumors, and survival rates are poor; only about half of the 10,000 Americans diagnosed with malignant glioma survive the first year, and only about one quarter survive for two years.

“Malignant gliomas are notorious, not only because of their resistance to conventional chemotherapy and radiation therapy, but also for their ability to invade the surrounding brain, thus causing neurological impairment and death,” said Hassan Fathallah-Shaykh, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Neurology. “Brain invasion, a hallmark of gliomas, also helps glioma cells evade therapeutic strategies.”

Fathallah-Shaykh said there is a great deal of interest among scientists in the idea that a low-oxygen environment induces glioma cells to react with aggressive movement, migration and brain invasion. A relatively new cancer strategy to shrink tumors is to cut off the tumor’s blood supply – and thus its oxygen source – through the use of anti-angiogenesis drugs. Angiogenesis is the process of making new blood vessels.

Read more about Fathallah-Shaykh's findings.

Research & Scholarship