Targeting Protein Could Lead to Effective Treatment for Glioblastoma

New treatments in desperate need for glioblastoma, which is resistant to chemotherapy and radiation.

A team of researchers discovered that a specific protein plays a key role in in the development of brain tumors in patients with glioblastoma, reported a study published in Nature Neuroscience.

“The fact that most patients with these brain tumors live only 16 months is just heartbreaking,” said lead study author Arezu Jahani-Asl. “Right now there is no effective treatment and that’s what drives me to study this disease.”

The researchers examined 339 brain tumor stem cell samples from patients with glioblastoma, which is resistant to chemotherapy and radiation.

Prior information led many to believe that any cancer cell could reproduce to form whole tumors, however, researchers have since learned that only a few types of cells have this ability in brain cancer. Even if 1 of these brain tumor stem cells is left behind after surgery, it could lead to the development of an entirely new tumor.

The results of the study found that within the tumor samples, higher Oncostatin M Receptor (OSMR) expression is associated with a faster death.

This notion was confirmed in mouse models, where mice were injected with human brain tumor stem cells with a low expression of OSMR. The results showed that 30% of these mice lived longer than those with normal OSMR expression tumor stem cells.

By blocking OSMR activity in these cells, it could prevent them from forming tumors in mouse brains.

“Being able to stop tumor formation entirely was a dramatic and stunning result,” said senior co-corresponding study author, Michael Rudnicki. “It means that this protein is a key piece of the puzzle, and could be a possible target for future treatments.”

It has been known that EGFRvIII, an active form of the epidermal growth factor receptor, drove the formation of tumors in glioblastoma. However, current therapies that target this receptor have been unsuccessful.

Researchers found that EGFRvIII needs to bind with OSMR before it can send out tumor-forming signals.

The study results could lead to more effective treatments for glioblastomas, as well as other cancers with highly amplified EGFR expression, such as breast, cervical, and lung cancers.

“This study raises the exciting prospect of potential new targets for a lethal disease,” said Azad Bonni, senior co-corresponding study author. “The next step is to find small molecules or antibodies that can shut down the protein OSMR or stop it from interacting with EGFR. But any human treatment targeting this protein is years away.”