Cancer treatments should target the cells around a tumor to stop it from spreading, new University of British Columbia research into brain cancer suggests.
Glioma, the most aggressive form of adult brain cancer, is what UBC research team Christian Naus, Wun Chey Sin and John Bechberger specializes in studying. Glioma has a low five-year survival rate of 30 per cent because it is so hard to totally remove cancer cells without compromising brain functions. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy do not prevent the regrowth of remaining cancer cells.
In this new study, the team introduces an alternative route to control the glioma cancer cells. The cancerous cells mingle with astrocytes, a type of cell that regulates the environment in the brain to create favorable conditions for brain functions.
The research team discovered that glioma cells can reprogram the astrocytes with little pieces of genetic code called microRNAs. Those codes function like master switches, turning specific sets of genes on and off.