Insight into Glioma Tumor Formation May Lead to Treatment Breakthrough

Malignant brain tumor cells found to rely on fats for energy and growth.

Contradictory study findings suggest that malignant brain tumor cells rely on fats for energy and growth instead of sugars.

For a study published in Neuro-Oncology, researchers used tumor tissue donated by patients undergoing surgery, in addition to mouse models with glioma. At the start of the study, researchers isolated stem cells from the brains of mice and mutated the cells to turn them cancerous.

The mutations were similar to those that form glioma tumors in humans. The malignant cells were then implanted into mice with the same genetic background as the donor mice so that researchers could assess the speed of tumor growth.

Researchers were able to show that glioma cells grow more slowly when treated with the drug etomoxir, which prevents the cells from generating energy with fatty acids.

“We tested etomoxir in our animal model, and showed that systemic doses of this drug slow glioma growth, prolonging median survival time by 17%,” said lead study author Elizabeth Stoll.

The findings provide insight into the fundamental biochemistry of cancel cells, and offer a potential drug target for glioma in the future.

“Most cells within the adult brain require sugars to produce energy and sustain function,” Stoll said. “Interestingly, we have discovered that malignant glioma cells have a completely different metabolic strategy as they actually prefer to break down fats to make energy. These results provide a novel drug target which could aid in the clinical treatment of this disease for patients in the future.”

Investigators hope to develop the drug with clinical partners so that patients with glioma can benefit from future research.