Glioblastoma multiforme is the most common and aggressive primary brain tumor and has one of the worst survival rates of all cancers. Despite surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, these tumors virtually always become resistant to therapy and eventually recur. The cancer stem cells within these tumors are thought to be important drivers of resistance and recurrence. Researchers at Dartmouth's Norris Cotton Cancer Center, led by Damian A. Almiron Bonnin, MD-PhD candidate of the Mark Israel laboratory, are devising strategies to target glioma stem cells which could significantly improve patient survival. "The presence of glioma stem cells within high-grade gliomas is one of the reasons they are so difficult to treat," says Almiron Bonnin. "In this study, we have successfully identified a secretion-mediated pathway that is essential for the survival of glioma stem cells within aggressive brain tumors." Multiple studies suggest that these cancer stem cells resist therapy and give rise to recurrences. "To put it simply, if you eliminate most of the tumor with standard treatments, but leave even one cancer stem cell behind, that cell could, in theory, give rise to an entire new tumor," says Almiron Bonnin. "Therefore, making sure these cells are being effectively targeted is an important goal of cancer research." The team is using its understanding of the mechanism by which these cells are maintained within brain tumors to develop new and potentially more effective approaches to treating high-grade brain tumors. The team’s strategy of utilizing drugs that target glioma stem cells may increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy agents in brain tumors and ultimately prolong the survival of patients with this type of tumor.
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