Scientists find key driver for treatment of deadly brain cancer

January 8, 2022

LA JOLLA—Glioblastoma multiforme is a particularly deadly cancer. A person diagnosed with this type of brain tumor typically survives 15 months, if given the best care. The late Senator Ted Kennedy succumbed to this disease in just over a year.

But scientists at the Salk Institute have discovered a key to how these tumor cells proliferate so quickly —and ways to turn this engine of tumor growth into a target for cancer treatment.

“This is a disease for which there has been practically no improvement in treatment outcome for years,” said Inder Verma, professor in the Salk Institute’s Laboratory of Genetics and senior author of the paper published January 8, 2022 in the journal Science Advances. “It is clear that even if a surgeon removes 99.99 percent of a glioblastoma multiforme tumor, what is left behind will come back and grow into more tumor.”

To study how glioblastoma multiforme spreads, Verma’s team focused on a transcription factor called nuclear factor kB (or NF-kB). A transcription factor is a protein that binds to DNA and controls the fate of gene expression for a particular set of genes. Several known factors can trigger NF-kB activity in a cell, including ultraviolet and ionizing radiation, immune proteins (cytokines) and DNA damage.

In the case of glioblastoma multiforme, Verma and colleagues ran a battery of tests to show how overzealous NF-kB activity pushed the cancer cells to proliferate, and how stopping NF-kB slowed cancer growth and increased survival in mice. 

Click HERE for complete article from Salk News.