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Target healthy cells to stop brain cancer 'hijack'

Date:
August 12, 2015
Source:
University of British Columbia
Summary:
New research into brain cancer suggests treatments should target the cells around a tumor to stop it from spreading.
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Normal brain area on the left (blue and green) is encountering invading cancer cells (glioma; red). Credit: Wun Chey Sin/Christian Naus. Cells in Community dress: Bronwyn Malloy, UBC Alumna & now McGill MA English student, in a green silk charmeuse with blue rosettes & dark green hem and edging.
Credit: Tim Matheson

New UBC research into brain cancer suggests treatments should target the cells around a tumor to stop it from spreading.

UBC research team Christian Naus, Wun Chey Sin and John Bechberger study glioma, the most aggressive form of adult brain cancer. Glioma has a low five-year survival rate of 30 per cent because it is difficult to completely remove cancer cells without compromising brain functions and chemotherapy and radiotherapy do not prevent the regrowth of remaining cancer cells.

With this new research, the team reveals an alternative route to rein in the glioma cancer cells. The cancerous cells mingle with astrocytes, a type of cell that regulates the environment in the brain to create favourable conditions for brain functions. The research team found that glioma cells can reprogram the astrocytes with little pieces of genetic code (microRNAs). Those codes act as master switches, turning specific sets of genes on and off.

"This is the first evidence that microRNA can go from glioma cells into astrocytes and reprogram them to provide an altered environment that stimulates tumor growth and invasion," said Naus, a professor in the Department of Cellular & Physiological Sciences in the Life Sciences Institute and an investigator with the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health.

"We should consider the possibility of creating a treatment that would temporarily modify the healthy astrocytes around the tumor so the cancer cells can't hijack them," said Sin, a research associate leading the glioma investigation in the Naus laboratory.

The findings were recently published in three related papers in the journals Oncogene and Oncotarget.


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Materials provided by University of British Columbia. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal References:

  1. W C Sin, Q Aftab, J F Bechberger, J H Leung, H Chen, C C Naus. Astrocytes promote glioma invasion via the gap junction protein connexin43. Oncogene, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/onc.2015.210
  2. Hong X, Sin WC, Harris AL, Naus CC. Gap junctions modulate glioma invasion by direct transfer of microRNA. Oncotarget, May 2015
  3. Aftab Q, Sin WC, Naus CC. Reduction in gap junction intercellular communication promotes glioma migration.. Oncotarget, May 2015

Cite This Page:

University of British Columbia. "Target healthy cells to stop brain cancer 'hijack'." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 August 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/08/150812103652.htm>.
University of British Columbia. (2015, August 12). Target healthy cells to stop brain cancer 'hijack'. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 23, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/08/150812103652.htm
University of British Columbia. "Target healthy cells to stop brain cancer 'hijack'." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/08/150812103652.htm (accessed May 23, 2017).

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