UT Southwestern researchers discover brain cancer metastasis pathway

Researchers discovered a molecular pathway responsible for glioblastoma spreading to surrounding brain tissues, as well as an existing drug that hampers growth in animal models, a study in Nature Cell Biology found.

Dallas-based UT Southwestern researchers showed that brain cells with an amplified epidermal growth factor receptor, a protein that sits on the surface of cells and is thought to be a driver for glioblastoma, could be suppressed when stimulated with ligands.

Researchers dosed animals with amplified EGFR glioblastoma tumors with an FDA-approved arthritis drug called tofacitinib, which increases the amount of ligands. The drug inhibited tumor growth and invasion into surrounding healthy brain tissue. Dosed animals also survived longer than the control group.

"Glioblastoma's invasive property is perhaps its most formidable barrier to treatment," Amyn Habib, MD, associate professor of neurology, member of both the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center and Peter O'Donnell Jr. Brain Institute at UTSW, and a staff physician at the Dallas VA Medical Center, said. "We have identified a pathway that can suppress this cellular invasion, which could offer a new way to increase survival."

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