Brain cancer affects hundreds of thousands of people globally every year and, together with central nervous system tumors, is estimated to take more than 200,000 lives. Research has also found that brain tumors make up 85% to 90% of all central nervous system tumors. Physicians usually treat brain cancer with radiation therapy, chemotherapy and surgery. However, brain tumors often recur after treatment and, in some cases, cannot be removed from the brain.
As such, researchers are always looking for a more effective brain cancer treatment that can treat tumors and keep them away for the long term. A recent discovery by researchers from the Hospital for Sick Children’s Developmental & Stem Cell Biology Program has potentially opened a new avenue for brain cancer treatment.
Researchers led by senior scientist Dr. Xi Huang were trying to understand the mechanics of the blood-brain barrier to help them develop a method to effectively treat a common malignant pediatric tumor called medulloblastoma. The blood-brain barrier is a system of specialized microvascular endothelial cells (BMVEC) that supplies nutrients to brain tissues, filters waste from the brain back into the bloodstream and prevents toxic compounds in the blood from entering the brain.
Huang stated that little is known about the formation and function of the blood-brain barrier even after decades of brain cancer research; he noted, however, that his recent study gave researchers much-needed insight into how this barrier forms and functions, possibly allowing them to develop a novel brain cancer treatment based on this knowledge.
For their study, the researchers used mice models to determine whether they could prevent the formation of this barrier around brain tumors. The researchers believe that their findings will allow for the development of treatments that can overcome the blood-tumor barrier and treat pediatric brain cancers more effectively.
Since the blood-brain barrier is responsible for preventing harmful compounds from entering brain tissues, it keeps almost everything that isn’t natural out of the brain. This means that on top of filtering out harmful compounds and pathogens in the blood, the barrier will also prevent more than 90% of small-molecule pharmaceutical drugs from entering the brain.
The discovery of the researchers on how to deactivate the blood-brain barrier temporarily allowed for more effective delivery of cancer medication across the blood-tumor barrier, improving the delivery of chemotherapy and making brain tumor cells much more sensitive to chemotherapy drugs such as etoposide.
The investigators reported their findings in the “Neuron” journal and outlined a way to limit the effect of the blood-brain barrier during medulloblastoma treatment.
Different organizations and for-profit entities such as CNS Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: CNSP) are focusing on developing next-generation brain cancer treatments so that patients whose post-diagnosis survival rate is currently limited can have better remedies to look up to.
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