A study led by myself and my colleague Dr Sandrine Willaime-Morawek, lecturer in Stem Cells and Brain Repair at the University and published in Molecular Neurobiology, analysed how enzymes called ADAMs affect the movement and function of the human tumour cells which cause brain cancer. We discovered a potential way of stopping one of the most aggressive types of brain tumour from spreading, which could lead the way to better patient survival.
There are several types of brain tumours depending on the type of cells that form the tumour. Glioblastoma is one of the most common types of malignant brain tumours in adults. They are fast growing and can spread easily. The tumour has threadlike tendrils that extend into other parts of the brain making it difficult to remove it all.
Although there have been great advances made in the treatment of Leukaemia’s and other cancers, little is known about how Glioblastomas are formed and how these tumours infiltrate the brain tissue.
We analysed how enzymes called ADAMs affect the movement and function of the human tumour cells. Our findings suggest that if you are able to block specific enzymes called ADAM10 and ADAM17 the tumour stops growing and spreading. It also moves the cancer cells away from the place where they were growing which could allow them to be removed through traditional cancer treatments such as radiotherapy, chemotherapy or surgery.
When confirmed in animal models of glioblastoma, this finding will be of great importance for patients and clinicians,” says my colleague Dr Sandrine Willaime-Morawek, who has been supervising my PhD research. “Glioblastoma is a devastating disease which is often untreatable. We have found that blocking ADAMs may lead to reduced tumour growth and less recurrence following conventional treatments, improving the chance of complete surgical removal and improving survival rates.”
In common with the rest of the UK the cases of cancer of the brain in Southampton have been rising – with two or three new patients diagnosed with brain tumours at Southampton Hospital, which serves a local population of around 2-3 million, each week. Tumours can develop in the brain or start somewhere else in the body and move to the brain. Brain cancers are one of the biggest cancer killers in children most commonly affecting their brain stems. As the brain is an essential organ, early detection is vital.